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Senator shows support for more affordable college student loans

By Nancy Lavin
On April 4, 2012


United States Sen. Jack Reed vocalized his support for University of Rhode Island students, faculty and staff in ending interest rate hikes on student loans during yesterday's press conference. Reed is the co-sponsor of the Student Loan Affordability Act, a bill up for vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate that would cap Stafford student loans at the current interest rate.

"If we do not pass this legislation by July 1, interest rates on subsidized federal student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent," Reed said.

The hike would affect seven million undergraduate students across the country, 36,000 of which are Rhode Island residents, according to Reed. About 8,000 URI students are using Stafford subsidized loans to help pay for their education.

"It's an issue of fairness," Reed said. "It's, in my view, unfair to provide large financial institutions loans with 0 percent interest practically and then to double the interest rates that we're giving to college students."

Reed added that college students are one of the segments of the population this country most needs to support to move forward in a global economy.

"Unless we educate Americans...we're not going to succeed," he said. "We need more students to graduate prepared for these international jobs. We will not be competitors in a global economy if we can't provide this education."

The conference also incorporated testimonial from several students affected by these potential rises in interest rates, including Student Senate President Stephanie Segal, who called the interest rate hikes "absolutely outrageous."

"Is it not the purpose of these loans to make college affordable?" she said.

Reed encouraged students at URI, and across the state, to spread the word about the legislation to their peers from other states.

"Talk amongst yourselves," he said. "If you have classmates, friends who are from Missouri, who are from New Jersey, anywhere else, ask them: did your congressperson or senator co-sponsor this legislation?"

Reed explained that the actions of students and constituents as a whole actually have more influence on congressional representatives than most people think, especially in an election year.

"One of the great aspects of this country is that ultimately, Congress listens to its constituents," he said.

Reed added that what was once a bipartisan idea has now become a partisan, contentious issue and that more support across the aisle is needed for the legislation to pass. Ultimately, he said the nature of the bill should appeal to people across the nation, regardless of their political affiliation.

"This makes common sense," he said. "If every parent, every student out there...has to pay more, where are they going to get the money?"

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