EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 26, 2013

Column: Congress must act to keep college within reach

Between soaring tuition payments and mounting student debt, middle class families all across New Hampshire are having a tough time putting their kids through college. And if Congress fails to act this week, it’s going to get even harder.

On July 1st, the fixed interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. If Congress doesn’t step in, thousands of Granite State students who rely on these loans will be forced to pay an average of $1,000 extra every year.

We can’t let that happen. At a time when a college education has never been more important – or expensive – the last thing Congress should do is put higher education even further out of reach for our young people.

Hardworking families across the country are already saddled with unprecedented levels of student loan debt. At more than $1 trillion, total student loan debt nationwide now tops credit card debt.

Here in New Hampshire, the outlook is especially bleak. Our students graduate from college with an average debt burden of more than $30,000, the highest of any state in the country. We want to be first in the nation, but not in student debt.

During student roundtables and a tele-town hall meeting with thousands of Granite Staters, I’ve heard from dozens of students, families, and educators who are deeply concerned about a rate hike.

I’ve spoken with students at Nashua Community College, River Valley Community College, and Plymouth State University who count on student loans to pay for their education and who know they will go on to graduate with staggering debt burdens.

I’ve heard from a grandmother in Salem who’s concerned for her grandson, who graduated from college in 2012 with a debt of more than $100,000.

I’ve talked to a middle class mother in Plymouth whose two sons – one a rising college senior, the other an entering freshman – are deeply disheartened by the level of debt they’ll need to take on to pay for their education.

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