“In America, higher education can’t be a luxury,” Obama said. “It’s an economic imperative.”
The interest rate on Stafford loans is currently set at 3.4 percent and would increase to 6.8 percent. The increase can only be stopped by congressional legislation, according to Cecilia Muñoz, assistant to the president and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
“Nobody should have to worry that a college education is out of reach,” Muñoz said. “This an important agenda item because it’s an important economic issue, and an important issue for the country.”
There is a growing demand for a college education in the workforce, and the demand is already greater than it has ever been, according to Obama.
“It’s never been more important,” Obama said. “Unfortunately it’s never been more expensive.”
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates that student loan debt has reached $870 billion. Other estimates say it has reached over $1 trillion, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Student loan delinquencies are also on the rise. Loan balances 90 days or more past due increased by 14.6 percent this year to total of $7 billion, according to Equifax.com.
Stafford loan interest rates had been at 6.8 percent until congress lowered them to the current rates in 2007. Congress continues to make efforts to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, and this partly results in the defunding of higher education, Obama said.
“We can’t just cut our way to prosperity,” said Obama. “We’ve got to build an economy where everybody’s got a fair shot. The time to act is right now.”