In June, high school seniors across Massachusetts will pull on their graduation robes and take pictures with proud parents, celebrating the end of high school and looking forward to a new beginning in college. But on July 1, they will get an unpleasant graduation gift from the federal government: the interest rate on new subsidized student loans will double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.
These students and their families have worked hard, saved what they could, and borrowed what they need to pay for higher education. Rather than reward their efforts, the government plans to add to their burden. Students are already drowning in debt. With $1 trillion in outstanding student loans and many borrowers struggling to stay afloat, we cannot afford to let this happen.
When our students go on to higher education, it helps us all. No state knows that better than Massachusetts. We have the nation’s highest percentage of adults with postsecondary degrees, and our highly-skilled workforce attracts businesses from out of state and provides the raw material to launch new businesses in state. Our highly-skilled workforce is helping our economy grow and recover faster than other states, which is why it is so important to help our students get a good education.
Some people say that we can’t afford low interest rates for students. But the federal government offers far lower rates on loans every single day —they just don’t do it for everyone. Right now, a bank can get a loan through the Federal Reserve discount window at a rate of less than one percent. The same big banks that destroyed millions of jobs and broke our economy can borrow at about 0.75 percent, while our students will be paying nine times as much as of July 1.
This is not fair. And it’s not necessary, either. The federal government makes 36 cents on every dollar it lends to students. Just last week, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the government will make $51 billion on the student loans it issued this year — more than the annual profit of any Fortune 500 company, and about five times Google’s yearly earnings. We should not be profiting from students who are drowning in debt while we are giving great deals to big banks.
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