In Conference Call, President Obama Addresses Stafford Loan Rate Issue
On Tuesday, President Obama hosted a conference call with college journalists to discuss the impending increase in Stafford loan interest rates set to kick in this July and to encourage students and young Americans to contact Congress in support of extending the low interest rates currently in place. The president made his remarks from Air Force One on his way to Colorado after addressing University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as he tours the country talking to college students about this important deadline.
“The bottom line here is we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. Making it harder for our young people to afford higher education, allowing them to earn their degrees—that’s nothing more than cutting our own future off at the knees. And Congress has to keep interest rates on student loans from doubling, and they need to do it now,” said the president.
After Obama’s remarks, Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy, took questions from student journalists.
Some callers questioned the usefulness of the interest rate reduction if college students are still taking out huge numbers of loans to get their college degree. Muñoz responded by explaining the Stafford Loan initiative is just one piece of a broader policy initiative that will require the cooperation of the federal government, states and colleges and universities to reduce college costs and keep higher education available.
Others asked about the incentive to increase interest rates in the first place, and Muñoz conceded that it was an attempt to reduce costs. However, she also stressed that the president planned to maintain the low rates in such a way that they were completely paid for, though she did not specify how.
When asked about the viability of this initiative during a time of such partisanship and political strife, Muñoz focused on executive powers like the bully pulpit that help the president and his team to influence states and the legislature. She and Rodriguez both stressed that this is extremely important and entirely possible, pointing out that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had recently announced his support of the initiative.
Throughout the call, the President, Muñoz, and Rodriguez encouraged students to use #DontDoubleMyRate on Twitter and Facebook as they posted personal accounts and appeals to Congress discouraging them from increasing the interest rate. President Obama closed his remarks by appealing to the students who are affected by the change.
“Let Congress know that they need to do the right thing,” said Obama. “Because we don’t want Congress to double the interest rates on so many students. We need to reward hard work and responsibility. And part of that is keeping interest rates on student loans low so more Americans get a fair shot at an affordable college education, the skills they need to find a good job, a clear path to the middle class that’s not blocked by a mountain of debt. And the time to act is right now, and I’m going to need your help getting that message out.”
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