Now that you know what the student loan debate is all about (if not, you should read this), it’s time to hear from some of the lesser heard voices who are apt to be greatly impacted by whatever decision is to be made about the interest rates on subsidized Stafford Loans. I’m talking about the students and colleges, two of the biggest components of the education system who are equally if not more frustrated with Congress than President Obama. Check out what a couple of D.C. students and colleges across America have to say about the student loan interest rate situation below:

How D.C. Students Feel

On Wednesday, June 5, the President and Vice President of the Georgetown University Student Association wrote an op-ed in The Hoya titled “Take Action Against Rising Student Loan Interest Rates.” The duo, Nate Tisa and Adam Ramdan, wrote about how students need to speak up and make their voice heard during such an important time in education history.

“The idea that future generations — and even our own peers — will be denied this opportunity because they lack the resources is disheartening. To accept that some Americans are unable to pursue the education they thirst for and need is to defer the American dream,” they said. “As representatives of the student body, GUSA has a responsibility to empower students and make our voices heard by those in government who may be tempted to give up on the aspirations of millions of young people. We have therefore begun a campaign to push Congressional leaders to get a bill on the president’s desk before the July 1 deadline and to address student debt in the long term.”

Calling for a “deficit-neutral” bill that would freeze interest rates yet again until 2015, Tisa and Ramdan explained their three-prong plan to tackle the student debt problem in the long term:

First, reach out to student governments from across the U.S. and asked them to sign their name to a letter meant for Congress proposing their new legislation. Citing the triumph of a past GUSA President and Vice President with their “Do We Have a Deal Yet?” campaign requesting Congress to raise the debt ceiling, Tisa and Ramdan believe they too can find “success in numbers.”

Second, send petition around the university that is supported by College Republicans and College Democrats alike, proving that if Georgetown can find a bipartisan solution to the student loan dilemma, so too can Congress.

Third, encourage students to contact their representatives in Congress. “We have the political power to help persuade Congress to pass a bipartisan deal. Regardless of whether this issue affects you personally, many of your fellow students’ futures depend on the outcome of this legislation,” they wrote.

“The most important part of a Georgetown education is the development of a social conscience — a sense of duty to others. We have a responsibility to use our education and experiences on the Hilltop to work toward a world where that privilege is accessible to all. Take a few minutes to give back by reminding members of Congress that the American dream they once achieved is still alive and well in the hands of future generations.”

While this is only a small segment of the student population, what these two Georgetown students have to say really resonates with other Millennials I’ve spoken with.

How Colleges Feel

There has been an outpouring of support from colleges for Senator Warren’s “Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act.” Babson College; Bentley University; Brandeis University; Boston College; Dean College; Emerson College; Emmanuel College; Hampshire College; Lasell College; Marian Court College; MIT; New England Conservatory; Nichols College; Northeastern University; Simmons College; Wheaton College; Wheelock College; Williams College’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute; are just the Massachusetts colleges and universities who have endorsed Warren’s plan moving forward. Organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts; Campaign for America’s Future; Credo; Democracy for America; Move On; National Organization for Women; National Youth Association; Progressive Change Campaign Committee; Rebuild the Dream; Student Debt Crisis; United States Student Association; and Young Invincibles are also behind Warren’s legislation.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has made her stance on student loans well-known as well with the S. 897: Bank on Student Loan Fairness Act. Warren, who has received a tremendous amount of support from colleges across the country, announced her plans on May 8 to set student loan interest rates at the same level as big banks receive from the Federal Reserve. She’s pushing for legislation that reduces the rate to 0.75 percent.

Many collegiate organizations have also banded together to write a letter to Representatives John Kline and Virginia Foxx, conveying their views about H.R. 1911: Smarter Solutions for Students Act. The Republican duo’s proposal to peg interest rates to 10-year Treasury notes would stop the rates from doubling. While the rates would stay fairly low for now, they would inevitably climb as the economy improves. The American Association of Community Colleges; American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers; American Association of State Colleges and Universities; American Council on Education; American Indian Higher Education Consortium; Association of American Universities; Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; Council for Christian Colleges & Universities; Council of Graduate Schools; Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; National Association of College and University Business Officers; National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators all signed the letter.

“First and foremost, the federal student loan programs were created to enable students to access postsecondary education,” they said. “Any changes must reflect this purpose, and should be aimed at ensuring that deserving students, regardless of means, can afford to attend college. This is the core reason for these programs’ existence, and attempts to weaken this purpose would represent a historic and damaging alteration to them.”

They made sure to mention that:

  • Federal student loans should be at the lowest possible cost to students.
  • Short-term fixes should not detract from creating long-term solutions.
  • Students shouldn’t have to give up long-term benefits in order to receive short-term gains.
  • Alterations made to aid programs or other existing benefits can be made as long as the changes are meant to help student loan borrowers. Getting rid of benefits for some and helping out other students with more aid is not a fix, it “shifts the burden.”
  • Student loan interest rates should be tied to market rates.
And here’s what they’re opposed to:
  • Eliminating or decreasing today’s in-school interest subsidy without more support for other components of student financial aid.
  • They also don’t support any policies that would “offset costs by increasing student loan origination fees” for they would make the burden of borrowing even worse for students.

Now the question is: How do you feel? Share your thoughts on the student loan rates controversy in the comment section below.

Mother Jones also did a stellar job making graphics that depict student loan plans and the debt situation. I highly recommend you check them out in the slideshow below: