Commentary by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin
Today, millions of Americans are still struggling to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. As we work to restart our economy, employers need highly skilled, educated workers who can fill the good paying jobs of the future, jobs that will help our nation prosper in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, the education that is needed to succeed for millions of Americans is unaffordable and out of reach for too many people.
Millions of Americans are struggling economically, weighed down by overwhelming student loan debt more than $1 trillion worth. And according to the Federal Reserve, about two-thirds of that debt is held by people under 30. The situation is about to get much, much worse. Starting July 1, the interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. This hike in the interest rate is about to hit more than seven million students taking out loans next year.
We must stop this increase in student loan interest rates from taking effect. I support legislation that will prevent the doubling of Stafford loan interest rates this summer, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to set aside partisan differences and to work together to find an equitable way to pay for this so we can make sure this interest rate hike does not occur.
In the 21st Century economy, higher education is not a luxury, it is an economic imperative. As employers struggle to find qualified workers, too many Americans are struggling to afford the education they need to succeed. College students, grad students and those seeking vocational training will all be impacted if this increase in student loan interest rates is allowed to go into effect.
America must educate its workforce. Access to higher education means more scientists, better doctors and nurses, and higher-skilled workers for the high-tech jobs of the future. These workers will fill jobs that will help ensure our economic success in the 21st Century.
Making college affordable is just common sense. Today, the average college student will graduate with $25,000 of debt, which may take years for them to pay back. The student loan interest rate increase, set to take effect July 1, will increase that debt by an additional $1,000. Saddling students of today with this kind of debt tomorrow means they will not have the resources to purchase a house, start of a family, or save for the future all activities that will help restore our economy.
It is time that we stand up for the American Dream and for our nations future. We cannot allow higher education to become unaffordable for millions of Americans who have the desire and the ability to learn and succeed. I am committed to preserving affordable college education as a long-term investment in our future.