|Los Altos Town Crier - Eshoo urges Foothill students to fight for affordable student loans|
|Thursday, 10 May 2012 10:24|
Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) stopped at Foothill College last week to encourage students to push for maintaining low-interest rates on student loans.
Joined by Foothill President Judy Miner and Latino Heritage Month Committee Chairwoman Ashley Oropeza May 2, Eshoo exhorted the assembled students to write to Congress urging support of legislation to keep the popular Stafford loans at their current 3.4 percent interest rate. That rate could double to 6.8 percent after July 1 if Congress fails to intervene. Eshoo used a graphic comparing the 60-day period to a ticking time bomb for students.
She said passage of her Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012 would keep "interest rates affordable on need-based student loans."
Eshoo outlined the impact on students in her 14th Congressional district, which includes Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.
"Today, nearly 3,000 students and their families in my district will be grappling with double the interest rate on their college loans within the next 60 days. That equates to an additional $1,000 of debt per year for every student borrower. That is, if Congress doesn't act to renew reduced rates for need-based student loans," the congresswoman said. "So I'm fighting for legislation to keep college affordable. Our moral imperative to put higher education within reach for every American is at stake. At a time when the unemployment rate for those with a college degree is about half the national average, it's never been more important."
Acknowledging Foothill's celebration of Latino Heritage Month, the congresswoman, seeking re-election in November, said she was discouraged that only an estimated 16 percent of all Latinos in Silicon Valley have college degrees. She sees student loans as a "tool" to increase that percentage.
"I have to keep asking myself," Eshoo said, "what sense does it make for interest rates to go up (for student loans) while we have the lowest interest rates in my lifetime for everything else?"
In 2007, Eshoo voted to pass the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which provided students relief from high interest rates by lowering rates on need-based student loans over a four-year period. The law decreased the interest rate from 6.8 percent in the 2006-2007 academic year to 3.4 percent in the 2011-2012 academic year. The congresswoman said 15 million students, including more than 10,000 in her district, benefited from the lower rates with less expensive monthly payments on their loans. Unless the lower rate is renewed, need-based student loans issued to 7.4 million borrowers nationwide will double, beginning with the next academic year.
Former Republican President George W. Bush signed the 2007 act, which received bipartisan support, into law. Both current Republican leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, have said the problem with keeping the interest rates low is not a question of their support, but how to pay for it and how long to offer the extension.
Eshoo suggested taking funds from the generous subsidies given to oil companies.
"We need to keep the doors to education open and the best way to keep them open is affordability," she said.
Miner, when introducing Eshoo, indicated access to higher education should be among the nation's highest priorities.
"(Student loans are) an issue for the nation," she said. "Students are not an expense – they are an investment."
|Thomas Bill Search|