A father of four who works a second construction job so his children can go to college. A college graduate still saddled with student loan debt twenty years after completing her degree. The high school senior who postponed college because the cost of tuition, housing, and books was too much to manage. These are just a few examples of stories I hear from Arkansans every single day.
Higher education and the chance at a stronger future shouldn’t leave Arkansans buried under insurmountable debt. By keeping the student loan interest rates low, we can make higher education more affordable and accessible for everyone.
Students in our state today are graduating with an average of $23,000 in student loan debt. And this isn’t just for private universities—this affects students at schools all across our state. Fortunately, Arkansas students have benefitted from legislation we passed in 2007 that gradually lowered the interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from 6.8% to 3.4%. Last summer, we extended the 3.4% interest rate through this June. Now, we’re faced with a choice. Do we let interest rates go up on July 1st or do we pass another measure? That’s simple. I choose the latter.
That’s why I voted for the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013. This bill would keep the interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4% for an additional two years while Congress works to reach a long-term solution that benefits our students. This measure would save students thousands of dollars over the course of their loan repayment so they have money to buy a car, purchase a home, or reinvest in our economy.
Unfortunately, some in Washington disagree with me. One proposal would reset interest rates every year over the life of the loan. Although this may sound good in theory, it creates uncertainty and could cause students to pay much higher rates in the long term. And I won’t do that.
I’ll continue fighting to ensure Arkansas students have a fair start upon graduation. And student loans are just one piece of the puzzle. I’ll also support Historically Black Colleges and Universities, TRiO, Pell Grants, Perkins loans, and other programs that benefit Arkansas students.