It’s the Economy Stupid: Obama Tells Congress “Get to Work” on Stafford
President Barack Obama spoke to thousands of students and other local supporters about college affordability at the University of Nevada,Las Vegas this month, emphasizing that congress needs to act now if they hope to prevent Stafford interest rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent before the deadline July 1.
If the extension to keep the current interest rate frozen at 3.4 percent is allowed to expire more than 7 million students will be affected, adding on an average $1,000 to their existing burdensome debt. While keep rates low has bipartisan support, the underlying issue revolves around how to pay for the $6 billion cost. The Republican proposal includes cuts on preventative healthcare funding-- cuts that are “not a smart thing to do,” Obama said.
“You're working hard. You're playing by the rules. You deserve to have leaders who are going to do the same, leaders who will take action -- leaders who will do whatever it requires to fight for the middle-class and grow the economy faster," Obama told the enthusiastic young crowd.
Obama, who only finished paying off his student loans eight years ago, said "Higher education can’t be a luxury. It’s an economic necessity. Everybody should be able to afford it." Over two-third's of the country’s students take on educational loans and on average they can accumulate as much as $26,300 in student debt, but that number can be much higher, especially for low-income individuals, and students of color.
Obama rebuffed recent notions that student debt, and the Stafford fight especially, have zero to do with the economy.
“Some of these folks in Congress, they were saying we're just talking about student loans to distract from the economy. I guess they don't get this is the economy."
Obama proposed a check-list of items that Congress can do immediately to help the economy aside from preventing the Stafford interest rate hike, including reinstating state and local jobs, creating jobs by commissioning the building of roads, schools, and bridges, and helping responsible families improve their refinance rate. He also encouraged providing tax breaks to small businesses, stopping tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas, improving job prospects for veterans, and promoting the clean energy sector.
But Obama emphasized, that while Congress should be working diligently to wrangle the other pressing issues that are dragging on this slow-to-recover economy, they only have a month to stop the Stafford interest rates from doubling.
Obama encouraged citizens to write, call, Facebook message, and Tweet at their members of Congress to tell them to stop rates from doubling“ using the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate.
"The clock is running out," he said, “Never forget that your voice matters."
Amisha Sisodiya is an online communications intern with Campus Progress.