Obnoxious priorities

Subsidized Stafford loans are now officially twice as expensive as they were last month, going from a 3.4 percent interest rate to a whopping 6.8 percent.

Photo © iStockphoto
Photo © iStockphoto

Subsidized Stafford loans are now officially twice as expensive as they were last month, going from a 3.4 percent interest rate to a whopping 6.8 percent.

The hike automatically went into effect when the Senate’s Democrats and Republicans, unsurprisingly, could not play nice and come to an actual decision.

While all of the previously acquired Stafford loans we have will not be affected, any loans students take out as of July 1 will have double the interest rate.

You know, we get it. America has a lot of debt, and it’s probably not feasible to send every slacker into higher education at the expense of the country. But is it really feasible to balance the national budget on the backs of students?

Students are already set up to fail. We have to decide as teenagers or early 20-somethings what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Then we are thrust into learning to live by ourselves, to cook by ourselves and to figure out how to be fiscally responsible.

Then, finally, we get the privilege of taking out ever-increasing loans, working incredibly hard and going into tons of debt, all for a degree that may or may not land us a job after we graduate owing a seemingly insurmountable amount of money.

Excuse me if I’m whining too much, but it seems like perpetually throwing hurdles at young people that inhibit their success isn’t going to lead to the future we all hope to have.

Like every other generation before us, we’re young and we’re irresponsible, yet we’re going to be the generation that will have to solve all the problems that our predecessors created. For students going to school right now, that means attacking more than $16 trillion of debt we have all gotten ourselves into.

So, if America doesn’t value its young citizens, education and that whole future of the country business, what does it value? Freedom?

With all the new information and scandals about how the National Security Agency frolics around invading people’s privacy, it’s hard to argue that we value our freedom any more than our continued education.

Even our liberty doesn’t seem to be too much of a priority for Americans anymore. We may possess far more liberties than many other countries, but does that justify the fact that we still haven’t legalized same-sex marriage in most of the United States? Oregon hasn’t even gotten with the times enough to allow people the basic right to marry whom they love.

Luckily, there’s still the chance that the Senate will pick this issue back up, take it seriously and create legislation that retroactively works to make sure students will not have to pay for the abrupt interest raise.

Additionally, Oregon is staying on top of the issue with a new bill that was just passed unanimously in the state Senate on the same day as the interest raise. The plan, called “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back,” creates a pilot program wherein students receive free tuition during their time at community colleges and public universities. After graduation, they would pay a percentage of their income for school.

The benefit, of course, would be that even if you ended up in a dreary, dead-end job after college, with three kids gnawing at your ankles and mangy dogs howling outside your door, you would not be stuck with gigantic student loan interest payments.

Whether Oregon’s plan will prove helpful to students, there will be seven million new subsidized Stafford loans just this year, and those loans will have interest rates that are twice as expensive as they were just last month. Hopefully, Americans can continue to find innovative ways to address the challenge of educating our citizens—without adding to our “itty bitty” debt problem.