On behalf of the Students of South Carolina, we write to express the ever-pressing need for a real bipartisan solution to the rapidly declining state of student debt in the nation.
Recently student loan debt topped $1 trillion nationwide with the average student graduating more than $25,000 in debt. On July 1st, the subsidized Stafford loan interest rate will double and put most borrowers $2,800 further in debt. In an uncertain economy, we simply cannot afford to accumulate more debt.
On Tuesday May 8, the Senate was set to consider the bill that will prevent new subsidized Stafford college loans from doubling; however nothing came of the session. We believe hat was not the appropriate action to take.
We ask that our lawmakers seriously consider those most affected: the students who elected and support them. These students will one day hold their same offices and shape our country’s future. It is our hope that our future leaders will remain highly educated individuals.
While it is no secret that higher education comes with a pretty lofty price tag, it is supposed to be an investment in one’s future. For many people, this is no longer the case. College graduate unemployment is the highest it has been since record-keeping history began in 1970, causing greater barriers to repaying loans. An increasing number of graduates are defaulting on their payments, damaging their credit early on. Nearly 9 percent of borrowers who started repaying their loans in 2009 defaulted in the first two years.
When half of all college graduates are unemployed when they graduate, why would potential students take on the burden of a doubled interest rate when they are not guaranteed a return on their investment? Allowing the interest rate to double is not only ignoring institutions of higher education, but it is also failing our future Americans.
We are troubled by our elected officials voting in favor of blocking a bill for the sole reason of internal politics and the long-lined, red taped bureaucracy that characterizes this process. This is a time sensitive issue and their actions imply that they do not support affordable interest rates and instead look on this matter as one to score political points during an election year at the expense of college students.
While we know there is conflict regarding the best way to pay for this extension, the bottom line is that the students of South Carolina need the interest rate to stay at its current level of 3.4%. When elected, members of congress were entrusted to represent us to the best of their abilities and voice our opinion at times that we could not. That time is now.
Kenny Tracy, University of South Carolina Student Body President
Erica Arbetter College of Charleston Student Body President
McKee Thomason, Clemson University Student Body President