The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Advocates Urge Senate to Prevent Student Loan Interest Rate Increase

June 1, 2012 - Posted by Avril Lighty

A collection of civil rights groups is urging members of the U.S. Senate to support the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act (S. 2343) before the current 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans doubles on July 1.

Student debt in the United States has exceeded $1 trillion, surpassing Americans’ credit card debt. If Congress fails to act, advocates say as many as 7.4 million students would be burdened with more costly loans. According to the College Board, 68 percent of low-income students borrow money to attend college. The National Center for Education Statistics found that 30 percent of undergraduates in 2007-08 received a subsidized Stafford loan, and a majority of those recipients were women.

“Permitting the interest rate to double in July would be particularly devastating to low-income students, students of color, and women, including many young parents, returning veterans and those with disabilities, who often experience significant barriers to college access and completion,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president, said in a letter.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), the NAACP, and other concerned groups also sent letters asking senators to support S. 2343, which would pay for lower interest rates by closing a corporate tax loophole. The groups also are asking senators to oppose the “Student Loan Interest Rate Reduction Act” (S. 2366), which proposes to offset the loan costs by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund in the Affordable Care Act. This fund helps ensure that women and children receive affordable preventive healthcare, like cancer screenings and child immunizations.

“Congress should not rob Peter to pay Paul by using a funding stream that is geared to help public health and provide preventive healthcare, and instead use it to pay for the loan rate extension,” wrote Kristor W. Cowan, AFT’s director of legislation. “It is unconscionable, when other options are available, to propose that the student loan problem be solved by undercutting the healthcare available to women, children and others most in need of assistance.”

Student advocates at Campus Progress have started a petition and organized “Student Debt Day,” a Washington, D.C., intern action where students will meet with staff of senators from their home states to share their stories and urge their senators to maintain student loan interest rates responsibly.

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