Obama: Press Congress on student loans

June 21, 2012 at 4:41 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday urged students and parents to pressure Congress to keep interest rates low on student loans.

"There's still 10 days for Congress to do the right thing. I understand that members of both parties say they want to get this done, and there are conversations taking place, but they haven't done it yet. And we've got to keep the pressure on," Obama told students in the White House East Room where he gave his speech on college affordability.

Obama's remarks came as the departments of Education and the Treasury released a report detailing the economic value of higher education showing median weekly earnings for a bachelor's degree holder in 2011 was 64 percent higher than for a high school graduate -- $1,053 compared with $638.

"Right now, the unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average," Obama said. "They earn twice as much as those who don't have a high school diploma."

The administration has consistently pressed for congressional action to keep interest rates low for student loans for the 7.4 million students expected to seek subsidized federal loans next year. Unless congress acts, interest rates on new student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent July 1.

Democrats and Republicans are at odds over how to pay for the $6 billion in subsidies on federal Stafford loans. Obama said average student loan debt for a college graduate is about $26,000.

"Americans as a whole now owe more on student loans than they do on their credit cards," Obama said. "If Congress does not get this done in a week, the average student with federal students loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt over the coming year."

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