In Tight Race, Ohio Senator Rallies On Student Loans

College graduates could face a big increase in student-loan interest come July 1.

In another testament to just how important turning out young voters could be in this year’s election — and how potent the issue of student loan costs could be in making that happen — Ohio’s freshman Democratic senator rallied with students in support of his legislation to prevent this summer’s impending increase on student-loan interest payments.

Sen. Sherrod Brown joined students from Ohio State Wednesday to call for passage of Brown’s Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012, legislation that would maintain the current interest rate, which is set at 3.4 percent, and prevent a hike to 6.8 percent scheduled for July 1.

“We must act now to prevent more than 26,000 OSU students – and 382,000 students across Ohio – from paying more for their student loans come July,” Brown says. “Already, recent college graduates are struggling to find work, with half of young college graduates jobless or underemployed. Allowing the interest rates on federal student loans to double is a step backwards. Ohio students – and our economy – can’t afford this sucker-punch at a time when we need to be doing more to get our economy back on track.”

One of the Senate’s most progressive Democrats, Brown is locked in a tight race for a second term this year. His campaign recently released poll results that put Brown within the margin of error against his opponent, Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel. The Brown campaign also has been complaining of a flood of attack ads against him in the state paid for by outside conservative interest groups.

A surge among young voters, the so-called Millenial Generation, helped push Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 — and help Democrats up and down the ballot, as well. Democrats are hoping to stir up similar enthusiasm this year.

Obama heightened the profile of the student-loan issue last week with an appearance on late-night comedian Jimmy Fallon’s show in which he and Fallon “slow-jammed” the news.

Brown cites an estimate from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee which finds that a higher interest rate would add approximately $1,000 in loan debt per loan for the average student. Further, student debt has reached nearly $1 trillion—exceeding credit cards and auto loans, Brown says. Moreover, the senator cites a new analysis released last week by the Associated Press which found that half of young college graduates are either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Brown outlined how his legislation, the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012 would help keep college tuition more affordable.

The bill would not add to the federal budget deficit, he says. It would keep the student loan interest rate from climbing by eliminating a tax loophole that the government watchdog agency Government Accountability Office (GAO) has determined is a problem that currently allows some shareholder-employees of so-called “S corporations” to avoid paying their fair share of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.  

 

Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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