With signs, balloons and speeches in hand, California Public Interest Research Group demonstrators hosted a rally at the Arbor yesterday morning, urging students to oppose the Obama administration’s potential doubling of student loan interest rates.
After President Obama’s budget was released this past Wednesday, CALPIRG and other student associations nationwide have united in an effort to stop a potential government increase of student loan interest rates. The proposed hike in interest rates — from 3.4 to 6.8 percent — would add over $1,000 to the annual cost of higher education for over nine million students.
According to External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Nadim Houssain, two out of three students graduate with loan debt at an average amount exceeding $26,000. With a large increase of students owing unprecedented amounts of debt, many fear an increase in student loan interest rates would make higher education a financial impossibility for an even greater portion of students nationwide.
UCSB CALPIRG Chapter Chair Rob Holland, a first-year undeclared major, said CALPIRG is requesting that U.S. policymakers to keep higher education accessible to all students.
“Right now, we need our leaders to, at the very least, maintain their investment in higher education,” Holland said. “They should act now to extend the low 3.4 percent interest rate until we can work out a long-term solution to keep loans affordable for all students.”
CALPIRG supporter and first-year political science major Heather Goold said highly educated citizens are essential to the nation’s livelihood. Goold said the government’s refusal to further invest in education and sustain affordable loan rates will only worsen already poor economic conditions within the U.S.
“By choosing to get educated and go to college, we students have made the choice to invest in our future and the future of our country,” said Goold. “Economic conditions already make it difficult for students and families to pay for school and allowing the interest rate to double will kick us while we’re down.”
Last year, CALPIRG successfully rallied against student interest rate increases, in collaboration with several other organizations.
However, CALPIRG campus organizer Kat Lockwood said Congress aims to continue raising interest rates again, thus prompting students to react and protest just as they did last year.
“We are launching a campaign to, this time, find a permanent solution to the problem,” said Lockwood. “After similar days of action, the Obama administration has said that they are willing to work with us, so we’re winning.”
Students of all majors and backgrounds are encouraged to pressure their congressional representatives to defend student interests. CALPIRG will also be distributing petitions for students to sign in support of lower interest rates.