U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) today pushed college students at Owens Community College to urge Congress to break a logjam and renew the low 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized college loans.
Senator Brown, who is up for re-election this year, told a gathering of students and administrators that the interest rate on Stafford loans will rise on July 1 unless Congress acts.
He said about 25,000 students attending colleges in Lucas County would be affected by a potential doubling of the rate on subsidized Stafford loans, to 6.8 percent. The loans start to accrue interest when the student graduates, and are based on income eligibility.
Democrats say they want to cover the projected $6 billion cost to U.S. taxpayers by eliminating certain Medicare tax loopholes to lobbyists and consultants, according to Mr. Brown.
Republicans have offered their own proposals to break the deadlock, such as by making federal employees contribute more toward their own retirements, or by taking away the subsidy for students who go part-time.
Mr. Brown blamed Republicans who have signed a pledge not to raise taxes.
“They need pressure from you and they need you to speak up,” Mr. Brown said, telling the group of college students that their age group votes in lower numbers than any other age groups. “Show them you’re paying attention,” he said.
He said state government does not fund higher education as it has in the past, and said there needs to be another round of “direct assistance” from the federal funding to support college education such as there was in the 2009 stimulus that helped state governments through the recession.
An estimated 10,000 Owens students rely on the loans. The college is in Perrysburg Township. The average student debt load tops $25,000 in the United States.
Senator Brown’s opponent, Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel, hasn’t taken a position on the two competing Democratic and Republican plans.
Mandel spokesman Travis Considine said 85 percent of student debt is owed to the government, which itself is in debt for $15.7 trillion.
“ It doesn’t take a college degree from Yale to know that kind of spending is unsustainable, but in an effort to make it possible for more middle-class Americans to earn a degree from places like Yale, Josh supports keeping interest rates on student loans as low as possible,” Mr. Considine said.
Sophomore Jakki Kleinhans, 24, a wife and mother, was one of three students who addressed the news conference held in Owens’s Founders Hall on its Perrysburg Township campus. She said she plans on transferring to Bowling Green State University for a bachelor’s degree after she graduates from Owens.
“My husband and I are both working on our degrees and we need student loans to help fund our education,” said Ms. Kleinhans, who works in the college financial aid office. She estimated the impact on her family at $5,000 from the higher rates.
“This is additional money that we were not prepared for and have not budgeted into our repayment plan,” Ms. Kleinhans said. She struggled with her emotions as she said it would take away from money they planned to spend on their daughter’s education.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.