Obama, Romney work for solution to student debt
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are both working to gain the support of young voters. Both are against increasing the interest rates of student loans, as previous legislation expires this summer. But Republicans and Democrats continue to disagree on how to pay for the extension.
Unless Congress intervenes, rates of federally subsidized loans are scheduled to double from 3.5 percent to 6.8 percent July 1, when 2007 legislation cutting rates in half is set to expire.
Even though both agree that these interest rates should not double, they still may. Because it is an election year, both parties want to take credit for averting the increase in efforts to court younger voters. If both parties cannot come to a compromise in two months, Americans with student loans would face a drastic increase in interest payments before they head to the polls this November.
According to the university, DePaul’s undergraduate and graduate students took out $265,959,000 worth of federal loans in the 2011 fiscal year alone. Over the last five years, loans have increased by 75.2 percent for undergraduates and 95 percent for graduate students.
If the interest rate rises to 6.4 percent, the Center for American Progress reports that 7.4 millions students nationwide would face an additional $1,000 in interest per year of school.
President Obama spoke at universities in three swing states: the University of Colorado-Boulder, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and University of Iowa. Officially, Obama’s campaign for re-election does not start until May 5, but he’s already working to maintain the support of young voters, ages 18-29, who proved key to his 2008 victory.
Speaking to an estimated 8,000 students at UNC April 24, Obama shared his experience with the burden of student loan debt. “I didn’t just read about this. I didn’t just get some talking points about this. Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes. Like I said, we didn’t come from wealthy families.”
Opponent Mitt Romney’s wealth has been attacked by both Democrats and former Republican candidates who say that he cannot relate to the hardships of the average American.
Using the same charisma that helped him win the young vote last election, Obama poked fun at the absurdity of how out of control student debt has gotten. “Check this out: I’m President of the United States,” he said after disclosing that he and Michelle only paid off their student loans eight years ago. The comment drew laughter and applause from students at all three schools.
“It makes me feel a little better that he knows where we are going from,” said freshman Demetrius Hill. “But after taking out around $20,000 a year in loans, I am irritated that all this is happening over a whopping $4,000.”
In an effort to chip away at Obama’s support among young people, Romney has tweaked his language regarding the student loan issue. Before the March 20 Illinois primary, a woman raised concerns to Romney about student debt. Referring to the president, Romney said, “He is going to come up at some point and talk about how he’s going to make it vanish. And that’s another, ‘Here, I’ll give you something for free.’ And I’m not going to do that.”
Romney’s stance shifted April 23. “With the number of college graduates who can’t find work or who can only find work well beneath their skill level,” Romney said, “I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans.”
“This is why I don’t like politics,” said sophomore Karley Guyselman. “They agree yet it has become a campaign issue? Just do something.”
Freezing the current 3.4 percent interest rate for one year would cost the federal government $6 billion, and the two parties cannot seem to agree on how to pay for it. Because it is an election year, both sides are expected to hold strong to their proposed legislation in hopes of being the side that gets a bill passed. So even though most politicians agree that the rate cannot double, it very well might if both parties refuse to compromise.
A recent survey by Georgetown University revealed that only 60 percent of those under 29 are registered to vote, and out of that only 63 percent said that they were “absolutely” going to cast a ballot in the presidential election.
“I’ll probably vote, but I’m not as passionate about it as I was,” said Crystal Hantschel, a DePaul senior studying psychology. “Obama made me excited about politics for the first time. I’ve seen how the system works, and it is just so frustrating.”