President Obama is currently traveling the nation, appealing to college crowds about an impending student loan rate hike. Ironically, Mitt Romney is saying pretty much the same thing on the issue.
President appeals to college students
President Obama made his pitch on college campuses in Boulder, Colo., and Chapel Hill, N.C., earlier this week. He is scheduled to speak at the University of Iowa on Wednesday. Obama carried all three states in 2008.
The president told a young crowd at the University of North Carolina that he and Michelle had been in their shoes, exiting college with a massive loan debt:
“College education is one of the best investments America can make for our future. This is important for all of us. We can’t price most Americans out of a college education. We can’t make higher education a luxury. It’s an economic imperative. Every American should be able to afford it. So that’s why I’m here.”
Obama also made a conference call to a crowd of college journalists from Air Force One, covering basically the same points he made to student crowds.
Stafford loan rate to expire
The president’s push comes at an important time. In 2007, the Democrat-controlled Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act to progressively lower the federally subsidized Stafford student loan rate from 6.8 percent to the current rate of 3.4 percent. But that legislation is set to expire on July 1. If Congress does not act soon, it will revert to its former 6.8 percent.
Obama said that allowing the Stafford loan rates to double would add about $1,000 to the debt of 7 million students.
“Anybody here can afford to pay an extra thousand dollars right now?” he asked a jeering crowd. “I don’t think so.”
The chief executive encouraged students to use social media as a way to pressure Congress into passing the Stafford loan rate extensions.
The burden of student loans
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an estimated 37 million Americans carry student loan burdens. That’s 15 percent of Americans and a combined burden of approximately $870 billion nationwide. About two-thirds of that debt is carried by people younger than 30.
The president’s attempt to make his crowd identify with his humble roots was a deliberately evoked contrast to his opponent Mitt Romney, who came from a privileged background. Romney is the son of a wealthy automotive executive.
Rivals of a similar mind
Ironically, however, both political rivals are of a similar mind on this issue. Romney told a crowd in Astor, Penn., Monday:
“With the number of college graduates who can’t find work or who can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans.”