On May 4, I, along with nearly 400 fellow students, graduated from Rufus King High School . The event was spectacular; cheering families, teachers, and community members proudly boasted their pride in our students. We live in a society that values college education and, these days, the question that’s asked after high school graduation is: “Where are you going to college?” The grim reality, though, is that college costs are rapidly increasing and workforce competition means that the average worker needs to get a basic college education.
Students, especially those who are low-income, need support from our elected leaders to attend college. The federal government in 2007 rapidly increased Pell Grants and lowered the interest rate on Stafford Loans to 3.4%. However, if Congress does not act by July 1, 2012, these interest rates will DOUBLE to 6.8%, costing the average student an extra $1,000 per year on their federal loan. More than 10 million students each year use subsidized Stafford loans to help pay for college. With rising tuition costs, attending college is already difficult for many students and the increase in interest rates would put a college education out of reach for many people.
The City of Milwaukee Youth Council and the Milwaukee Common Council both passed legislation urging the Wisconsin delegation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to pass S. 2343 and HR 4170 (federal legislation limiting student loan interest rates, creating new loan forgiveness provisions, and converting some borrowers’ private loans to federal loans). Both bodies understand that this federal issue directly affects students in Milwaukee . College education is not only important for molding future teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, physicians and professionals, but also for our city’s economic prosperity and growth. Milwaukee is at a crossroads: with unemployment rates sky high, especially in the central city, we need to provide as many solutions as possible to make a difference. This issue is one of those issues.
We need our federal officials to put partisan gridlock aside and stand up for students and our communities. Congress needs to hear us loud and clear: Don’t Raise Our Rates. I urge members of our community to lobby our federal officials and let them know how this interest rate hike will directly affect Milwaukee and Milwaukee students. You can download a petition to circulate on the Youth Council’s website at http://city.milwaukee.gov/youthcouncil or from our Facebook/Twitter pages.
This time of year in our nation there are thousands of high school graduations. Hundreds of thousands of students are getting ready to attend college. Let’s do whatever we can to make sure we are supporting these students’ futures, instead of making them more difficult to attain.
President/Member (District 10)
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