Braley Op-Ed: Keeping the College Dream Within Reach PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Education & Schools
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Monday, 11 June 2012 08:20

By: Rep. Bruce Braley

I worked hard to put myself through college and law school 30 years ago, spending my summers with the Poweshiek County Roads department repairing roads and bridges, waiting tables, and tending bar.  But I couldn’t have made it through school without the help of low-interest federal student loans.

When my daughter headed off to Iowa State a few years ago, it again brought home how much student loan interest rates have increased since my college days.

And college students are facing a big challenge in just a few weeks.  Unless Congress acts by July 1st, interest rates on federally subsidized student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.  This drastic increase would mean a student taking out the maximum Stafford student loan of $23,000 would pay a whopping $11,000 more in interest over the 20 year repayment period of the loan.

In January, I introduced legislation to stop the student loan increase and keep interest rates at 3.4 percent.  But the bill hasn’t moved forward because Washington politicians are using the issue to score political points rather than help middle class families.

You’d think that keeping the college dream within reach of more people would be a goal that could attract wide support from both sides of the aisle.  Yet the debate over this important issue has devolved into all-too-typical partisan finger-pointing.

A college degree is the ticket to job opportunities in our increasingly knowledge-based economy.  Yet increasingly, the dream is too expensive.  It’s no secret that the cost of college in Iowa has dramatically increased in recent years.  The skyrocketing costs have far outpaced inflation and left graduates with mountains of debt.  Since 2000, tuition at Iowa’s public universities has increased by 83 percent.  Iowa college students graduate with the third highest debt in the entire country.

College debt is threatening the economic recovery by putting graduates deeply in debt before they even start their working lives.  College costs are threatening the very accessibility of college to the middle class.

Time is running out.  Congress needs to come together and act by the end of the month.  Keeping college affordable is just too important to job creation and economic growth.

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