Faith Network Asks Congress to Heed Students’ Prayers to Keep Stafford Rates Low
More than 40 religious groups across the nation are circulating petitions to urge their Members of Congress to stop Stafford student loan interest rates, which is set to double July 1--in 5 days-- from from 3.4 percent to 6.8 unless Congress extends the current cap for another year.
"Our faith teaches us that we have a responsibility to ensure that all of us are able to reach our full potential - from one generation to the next," Executive Director Eric LeCompte of Jubilee USA, who is heading the petition action, said in a press release Monday. The network of denominations and congregations works to tackle debt on an international scale and believes tomorrow's leaders shouldn't be burdened with unsustainable debts.
Jenn Lindsay, a college student in religious studies, said students loans enabled her to attend college but will leave her with over $50,000 worth of debt. "Once I graduate, I imagine my debt load will force me to take the first vocation offer which is a career-long commitment," she said.
The hike in interest rates would cost the average borrower around $1,000 in additional loan payments each year, negatively impacting 7.4 million young Americans who rely on Stafford loans to finance their higher education, according to state-specific reports compiled by Campus Progress.
Rev. Stan Duncan, a United Church of Christ pastor in Massachusetts, said students saddled with this amount of debt will have to base post-graduation decisions on what they owe.
"When students graduate with high levels of debt, it can force them to take positions that are unrelated to their degree just to pay their bills," Duncan said. "It's important to encourage Congress to minimize that debt, including keeping interest rates low, in order for graduates and American to have a brighter future."
With student debt rising past the $1 trillion mark, and surpassing all outstanding credit card and car payment debt the future of our nation's economic well-being is also at stake if access to affordable education is put further out of reach for the future workforce. Christian Weller, the senior economist at the Center for American Progress (our parent organization), recently called the economic situation "a perfect storm" for students struggling to keep up with skyrocketing college costs in order to stay competitive in a struggling job market.
Time is ticking on Stafford but the continued pressure from higher education advocates, students, their parents, and now faith groups is mounting and seems to be working. Reports that the Senate may be nearing a bipartisan deal soon have emerged, and any day now millions of students may be able to breath a little easier knowing that their already heavy debt burdens won't get heavier.
Melissa Brown is a journalism intern for Campus Progress.
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