As many of you know, President Obama will be in our state this afternoon to speak directly to students about an important issue: preventing interest rates on student loans from doubling. If Congress does not act before July 1, interest rates on federal student loans will double and paying for college will become even tougher for some students in North Carolina and around the country.
I'm proud that North Carolina is home to dozens of outstanding private colleges and universities, as well as the finest public university and community college systems in the country. Business owners I talk to routinely say that our highly educated and highly skilled workforce is what attracted them to North Carolina. And there is no doubt that the strength of our economy going forward depends on the continued strength of our education system.
However, the rising cost of college is putting higher education out of reach for too many North Carolina students. Tuition and fees have more than doubled over the past two decades. The average graduates leaves school with $25,000 of debt. And student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt for the first time ever. Furthermore, a new study shows that half of all recent college graduates do not have a job.
Students in North Carolina and around the country cannot afford to have interest rates on their student loans doubled. Our students deserve a fighting chance when they graduate; we shouldn't put them tens of thousands of dollars behind before they even reach the starting line. I will do my part to ensure students like you have the chance to thrive after graduating.