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Party Politics in the Face of Young America

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Megan S

Republicans failed to freeze student loan interest rates this past Tuesday in the Senate, pushing college access and affordability out of reach for many low-income students. In recent months we heard news that the national student debt had surpassed $1 trillion, leaving some students to wonder if a college education is even worth it. However, growing up we are taught that the ticket to the middle class is receiving a degree. Will I receive a job that pays enough to cover my student loans upon graduation? Or will I have to postpone getting married or even buying a home? These are all serious concerns of young Americans as they face one of the weakest job markets in history.
 
In an effort to lift the voices of young Americans, Young Invincibles, a national youth advocacy organization, set off on a 21-state, 43-city bus tour – Campaign for Young America. Campaign staffers traveled the country and conducted hundreds of roundtables asking students about the lack of opportunity and problems facing young people today. After nearly 50 days, the tour came to an end on Tuesday, just in time for a day of action on the hill. I joined fellow YI staff, students, and various partner organizations to lobby against the proposed interest rate hike. Specifically, Stafford subsidized student loan interest rates are set to double on July 1st from 3.4% to 6.8% if congress does not act. Preventing the interest rate hike would save students on average $1,000 or more. For many students, like Clarise McCants, a north Philadelphia native, and a junior at Howard University – “$1,000 means a lot.” This can pay for food, rent, or even books.

I traveled with Clarise and other students from Ohio to talk with Republican Senator Rob Portman’s office. It was disheartening to hear that Portman, like so many other Republican senators, would not vote to prevent the hike due to party politics. While Portman believes in college affordability overall, his staffer noted that neither party knows how to pay for the proposed bills. Democrats have suggested paying for the bill under a tax loop hole on small business that make over $250,000, while Republicans believe the best way to pay for the bill is to stop funding women’s preventative health care. Why neither solution is ideal, are Republicans really going to pit students against small business owners? Business owners that should be paying taxes like the rest of us? Receiving a solid education should not be a luxury attainable only for the top 1%, but a right for all humans, no matter what race, socio economic status, or background.