Seniors ‘terrified’ over college loan debt
Student loans and debt have moved to the foreground of the nation’s political consciousness recently, but some Seton Hall seniors feel that not enough attention is being paid to the source of the problem, the cost of higher education.
On April 24, President Obama appeared on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” where he ‘slow-jammed the news,’ or spoke about the interest rates of federal student Stafford loans while Late Night backing band The Roots played sultry music and Fallon interjected such lines as “You should listen to the President – or, as I like to call him, the Preezy of the United Steezy.”
On the show, Obama called on Congress to act to keep the rates for subsidized Stafford loans from doubling, which they are scheduled to do on July 1. According to the Associated Press, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans is currently 3.4 percent. Unless Congress acts, the rate will increase to 6.8 percent in July.
In a similar vein, though arguably with less panache, Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-Michigan) recently introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness Act, which, if passed, would forgive unpaid student loan debt for Americans who have made payments of 10 percent of their discretionary income for at least 10 years, according to the text of the bill, which can be found online on Clarke’s website.
The act would also cap federal student loan interest rates at 3.4 percent and allow college graduates who enter service professions to have their outstanding student loan debts forgiven in five years rather than 10.
The bill has been introduced in the House, and, as of March 23, was referred to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and it is not clear when or if the legislation will come up for vote in the House.
For a few Seton Hall seniors who are getting ready to graduate and begin paying off student loans, the moves toward keeping interest rates low and forgiving student loan debt are promising, but not nearly enough.
“I am happy that this issue has come into the light because it is something that needs to be addressed,” senior Valerie Nobile said. “But a lot of the plans are aimed at forgiving student debt after 10 years or another large number. Personally, I don’t want to accumulate so much interest on my loans and pay for 10 years in order to be forgiven.”
“At that point, I might as well just keep paying,” Nobile added.
Senior Julia Coltrinari agreed that many of the actions taken by the President and Congress are more akin to putting a Band-Aid on the problem than actually solving it.
“I think that it would be pretty sweet,” (to have her student loan debt forgiven,) “But it’s just so silly, you have to go to college to have a good life, but you won’t have a good life if you spend it struggling to pay back your student loans,” Coltrinari said, adding, “Preferably, they should keep (interest) rates low, obviously, but the root of the cause is that college is too much money.”
The students also said that for most people, paying for college was near impossible without student loans.
Coltrinari said that, while she had most of her education covered by a scholarship, she still had to take out loans to cover the rest of the cost, including books, and pay other fees.
Senior David Rind said that in this economy, it was difficult to find ways to pay for college without taking out loans. “Families are stretched thin as it is, and college is a huge cost,” Rind said.
Rind added that he is nervous about having to pay back his student loans after he graduates in a few weeks.
Coltrinari echoed that statement. “Terrified,” she said when asked how she felt about paying the money back.
“I am dreading paying back loans,” Nobile said, adding, “For the last month I have been trying to figure out my future financial situation and it looks grim.”
Nobile and Coltrinari added that they were trying to figure out ways to obtain employment to be able to pay back their loans, but the economy was not helping.
Coltrinari said that as a psychology major, there were not many opportunities to earn a decent wage with only a Bachelor’s degree, so instead she intends to get her bartending license after graduation.
“I’ll make more money bartending in the city than I would in any entry-level job I’d find in the psychology field,” Coltrinari said.
Nobile said she had been searching for a job as a special education teacher in an elementary school in New York, however she hasn’t had any success yet. “I will absolutely be moving back home to help ease the burden of my loan debt.”
Caitlin Carroll can be reached at Caitlin.firstname.lastname@example.org.