Thursday’s closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill seemed to balance the negotiations that a day earlier ended when a bipartisan coalition in the Senate was unable to strike a deal. There remains hope that lawmakers will agree on the best way to reduce rates on subsidized Stafford loans, which doubled to 6.8 percent last week when Congress failed to act. They could vote on a possible deal as early as Tuesday.
The goal on both sides of the aisle, and at the White House, is to get those rates closer to the 3.4 percent they were before the change. America’s college students, many of whom are saddled by mountains of post-graduation debt, are hoping that occurs.
So are we.
As for Shelby, the senator from Tuscaloosa said this week through his spokesperson that he “supports a permanent fix that protects both students and taxpayers.” Call that what it is: a milquetoast response that says little of substance.
Instead, we wish Shelby would use his clout — as he often does in matters of America’s economy — and lay down the law about the overwhelming need to lessen the burden on American college students.
Everything in Washington is washed in a Republican-vs.-Democratic bath, but this isn’t a other-side-of-the-aisle problem. Shelby’s colleagues, R’s and D’s alike, can fight over the nuances of a possible deal all they want. Following the transcript of the last two days’ worth of negotiations has been like following a soap opera affair — pointed fingers, accusations of fault and guilt, signs of division within (political) families. Is it Republicans’ fault that a deal isn’t yet done? Or was it the Democrats?
America’s students couldn’t care less.
They see dollar signs — not of what they will earn after graduation, but the money they’ll owe.
They see what lies ahead, the years upon years of repaying student loans that hamper their ability to start their own families, buy their first homes and become positive influences on local economies.
They see fellow students who, frustrated and with few options, decide a four-year degree isn’t worth the five- and six-figure student loan payment that often comes with it.
They see college in danger of becoming less of an opportunity than it is — and should remain.
Count this as yet another component of America’s epidemic that is the rising cost of a traditional college degree. State legislatures aren’t doing enough. Universities and their boards of trustees shed few tears when passing annual tuition increases. It’s the ultimate trickle-down effect, with students resting at the bottom. Someone must speak for them.