WASHINGTON—As education leaders across the nation are calling on Congress to act before July 1 to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling, a new report released today by the American Federation of Teachers warns that the combination of massive student debt and public disinvestment in higher education threatens Americans’ ability to gain access to and successfully complete college.

The report—”On the Backs of Students and Families: Disinvestment in Higher Education and the Student Loan Debt Crisis“—outlines a series of policy recommendations aimed at advancing goals that “must be achieved if our nation is to have a prosperous economy, a healthy democracy and a just society.”

Those goals include:

  • Relieving the student debt burden for current borrowers;
  • Promoting debt-free higher education;
  • Enhancing state funding for public higher education;
  • Prioritizing academic needs in college and university budgets; and
  • Eliminating the fraud and abuse that entrap borrowers in debt.

“For a growing number of students, loans have become the primary or only means of paying for college,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “For many people, this slams the door on their hope of pursuing a college education. And with interest rates on many federal student loans scheduled to double on July 1, things could get even worse.”

It will take quick action to avoid that, Weingarten said. “Congress must act swiftly to avert a doubling of interest rates this summer, but it must take care that any fix does not end up costing students more in the long term,” she said. “Given the quickly approaching deadline, Congress should pass a short-term extension of current interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans. Then lawmakers must take the time to more thoroughly address all federal financial aid programs—including student loans for new and existing borrowers—in the context of reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”


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