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Obama advocated for lower interest rates on student loans

The House of Representatives voted to maintain low interest rates for federal student loans after President Barack Obama traveled to three college campuses advocating for the extension.

The vote came to the House floor on April 27, two days after the president visited universities in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa to speak to students about the importance of keeping interest rates on federal student loans from rising. If Congress fails to vote on maintaining low interest rates on federal Stafford loans, the rates will double on July 1.

Because the bill takes funding away from Obama’s health care law, the White House announced that the president will veto it.

While on flight to Boulder, Obama addressed student journalists in a conference call about the federal loans that 7.4 million students are currently paying off.

“I know what this is like, because when [First Lady] Michelle [Obama] and I graduated from college and law school we had enormous debts, and it took us a lot of years to pay off,” the president said. “So that’s probably why I feel this thing so personally.”

On average, students who take out loans for college graduate with $25,000 in debt, he said. But AU students graduated with an average debt of $35,206 in 2010, which is more than $10,000 higher than the national average and holds the record among D.C. universities, The Eagle previously reported.

The unemployment rate for Americans without a college degree is twice as high as that for those who have one, so college needs to be more affordable, Obama told students. Higher education should be available to everyone, and making it less affordable will only give the middle class fewer ladders to climb, he said.

“Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle class families, even while they’re voting for huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” he said. “Tax cuts that, by the way, would have to be paid for by cutting things like education and job-training programs that give students new opportunities to work and succeed.”

The president encouraged students to contact Congress about the issue and to speak out on Twitter, using the hashtag, “#dontdoublemyrate.”

Recent AU graduates are struggling to pay off their student loans, even with the help of their parents.

Former SG president Andy MacCracken is one of those students. With $50,000 in undergraduate debt and an expected $20,000 loan for his graduate degree, he doubts he will be able to buy a home or start a family within the next 10 years because of the cost of paying back his loans. MacCracken, now the associate director of the National Campus Leadership Council, is mobilizing students to talk to the White House about the importance of reducing student debt.

AU graduate student Tara Ashraf received two scholarships and help from her parents to afford her undergraduate education, causing her to graduate without any student debt. Still, she believes the cost of college in the United States is too high – especially in comparison to European universities.

“I had a Spanish professor who said that for all of his schooling, including his Masters, he paid $7,000,” Ashraf said. “It’s outrageous how much we have to pay here for an education that doesn’t even come close to education systems that other countries have.”

nglass@theeagleonline.com