Obama demands Congress block student loan interest rate bump

President Barack Obama speaks in the White House's East Room Thursday, calling on Congress to block an interest rate hike on subsidized federal student loans. Behind him stands Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, right, and several college students. Francis Rivera | Photo Editor

President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of students Thursday at the White House, urging members of Congress to reach an agreement and halt an increase on student loan interest rates.

Unless members from both parties agree to a settlement before July 1, interest rates on subsidized federal student loans are set to double to 6.8 percent, which Obama said would cost the average student an additional $1,000 in the next year.

“This should be a no-brainer. It should not be difficult. It should’ve gotten done weeks ago,” Obama said.

He chastised members of Congress for not dealing with this issue earlier, and said the country is instead “stuck watching Congress play chicken with another deadline”.

The average college student graduates with more than $25,000 in debt from student loans, a burden Obama said “prices out” students who need a college degree to find employment and middle class security.

“We can’t stand by when millions of young people are already saddled with debt just as you’re starting off,” Obama said.

Both parties have their own ideas about where to find the $5.9 billion required to keep the current interest rate of 3.4 percent, but have failed to reach a compromise.

Obama drew laughter when he said the audience, made up primarily of students, was more nicely dressed compared to when the president normally sees them during campus visits. Francis Rivera | Photo Editor

Democrats have suggested an increase on Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for owners of private corporations, while Republicans have supported taking money out of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created by Obama’s 2010 healthcare overhaul.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a briefing Thursday that the delay is a political maneuver, part of the “political theater” constructed by Republicans in Congress because of the election-year climate.

The Obama administration is working with members of Congress in hopes of coming to a resolution, Carney said, declining to provide names.

While the economic future of many college students is impossible to predict, Obama said, the interest rate could still be controlled if students keep rallying around the issue and contacting their representatives in Congress.

“Tell them now is not the time to double interest rates on your student loans,” Obama said, “Tell them to double down on an investment in a strong and secure middle class, and that means your education.”

University spokesperson Michelle Sherrard said an increase in student loan interest rates would not change the way GW handles the process by which students apply for loans.

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