Yesterday, as Congress battled over the future of interest rates on student loans, I was invited to the East Room of the White House to hear President Obama call on Congress to keep college affordable. Upon arrival, I found that most of the invitees were college students 20 years old and younger—at 36, I felt pretty old.
It was like being at a rally at on a college campus. What made it interesting was that Obama was directly speaking to those most affected by this pending Congressional action – college students.
College students who need to borrow for school, on average graduate with more than $25,000 in debt.
On July 1, the federal interest rate for student loans is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent unless Congress intervenes. The new rate would affect federally subsidized Stafford loans, which are provided to almost 7.5 million low- and moderate-income students nationwide each year.
On average, the doubling of the interest rate would add more than $4,000 in debt over a four-year education. These loans are essential for college access, and the low rate supports students from borrowing from more unscrupulous private lenders.
This weekend 40 congregations and faith communities across the country will pray and act for students. The Churches and religious communities are a part of Jubilee USA Network. Jubilee USA Network and global partners have won more than $100 billion in debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. The relief allows for nations to invest in essential services such as health care, education, and infrastructure to strengthen their economies. As local communities in the US are affected by the global debt crisis, we are concerned by growing student debts – and faith communities are acting.
The voices of these Jubilee communities have already moved both sides of the aisle to support protecting low student interest rates. However, there are disagreements on how to reauthorize it. Jubilee believes it’s not the time to play politics with the future of our country.
When I travel on college campuses, I see students inundated with the irresponsible lending and the high interest rates that keep poor countries poor. They see the loans that they have, often from private lenders and wonder if they will make it in a bad economy. In the spirit of Jubilee – add your voices and pray for students this weekend. Visit jubileeusa.org for more information.
Eric LeCompte is the Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, an interfaith network which has transformed international policy and won over $100 billion dollars in debt relief for the world’s poorest. If your community will join in this weekend of prayer, please contact Jeremy@jubileeusa.org
Student load illustration, zimmytws / Shutterstock.com