By: Kristal Martinez, Opinions Editor
Let me start off with a story about a student. A college student just like all of us, few funds available to him, little parental support in the way of paying for college, but high hopes that he will make it through and go on to work a successful job. Someday even potentially earn enough to help his family out. He works a job, attends his classes, and has barely enough time in between to get a little work done. He crosses his fingers as he submits his FAFSA each year and dreads the time when his bill comes in. As his eyes meet the words “due date,” on this paper that determines his future, his heart drops and a weight takes its place. Every now and then he talks to his parents about possibly helping him out, but they cannot afford it. It’s a hard truth and I’m sure many of us have heard it before. At this point he’s scrambling for options and ways to pay the bills. He calls the Bursar’s Office but there is no answer. He then contacts Financial Aid and learns of the Direct Student Loan. This seems like a great opportunity: a way to pay his bills and get an education that he and his family can be proud of. What he did not foresee was a spike in his bill, cuts in his Pell, and loan interest rates doubling.
If nothing is done, student loan interest rates will double the first of July. President Obama supports keeping the loans at their current rates. Mitt Romney recently changed his position to agree with keeping rates as they are, but the bill to stop loan interest rate increases has no Republican sponsors. Subcommittee Representative Virginia Foxx recently noted she has little sympathy for students with major debt because, apparently, there is no reason to be taking out such large loans. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, reaching from the cost of housing to the cost of tuition, and a number of hidden fees in between, there is a reason for students to be taking out maximum loan amounts. Additionally, with the poor economy few families can afford to lend a few bucks to their children let alone a few thousand.
Why are Republicans against keeping interest rates as they are? It’s because they are opposed to the 6 million dollars it would take to keep loan rates reasonable, yet House Republicans didn’t have a problem passing a bill with another tax break for the rich that would add $46 billion to the national debt. I was under the impression that education would be the key to improving the current economic crisis, but it seems like these cuts and increases are cutting students off before they have the chance to even attempt to make a change.
Back to the undergrad described above. I would love to report a happy ending or silver lining for this student but the reality is his current outlooks are quite bleak. If he can afford each semester to come and graduates from his undergrad program, he will be facing nearly $56,000 in debt and it will only get worse as he enters his grad years. This is the reality for many graduating seniors, but it is hard to imagine what will happen to future freshmen as they open their award letters. My guess is the same weight, if not a heavier one, will take refuge in their chests where their hopes and aspirations once thrived.