Rep. Cantor Proposes Making Students Pay Interest on Loans Before Graduating
Sometimes, the best way to counter a completely rational and thoroughly possible proposal that you do not want to accept is to offer a counter-proposal that is completely absurd.
Case in point: in bipartisan debt ceiling discussions at the White House Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) continued to scoff at the idea of raising taxes on the rich in an effort to balance the budget. But rather than simply continuing to repeat “no” to President Obama and the Democrats, the House Majority Leader offered a proposal that, in his mind, was even better than taxing the wealthy: sticking college students with their student loan interest payments before they even graduate.
According to the Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz, the move would save $40 billion over the next 10 years—while putting the squeeze on college students who are borrowing their way through school.
Kurtz reports that President Obama replied somewhat incredulously.
“I’m not going to do that,” he said. “I’m not going to take money from old people and screw students.”
As Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress points out, students in this country are already getting screwed. The average college student graduated with $23,000 in student loan debt in 2008, and American students pay much more in college tuition than most other developed countries around the world. Students at for-profit colleges, in particular, are defaulting on their staggering student loan debt—over $30,000, for an average graduate. And recent graduates continue to struggle to find work in an extremely tight job market that may greatly damage young people’s long-term economic prospects, to say nothing of their ability to pay off their loans.
College students are hurting badly right now. Forcing them to pay more on their loans before they even graduate is senseless and unfair.
Rep. Cantor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
While it isn’t exactly sound policy, the proposal to make students pay more instead of raising taxes on the rich speaks volumes on the GOP’s stubborn posturing during the debt ceiling debates. The House Majority Leader is so committed to protecting the richest Americans from having to shell out any additional piece of their wealth (despite the incredible growth of that wealth while average Americans’ economic fortunes have declined or stagnated in the last several decades) that he is willing to send broke college students scrounging for change in their couch cushions to start paying their loan interest at a time when they can least afford it .
The buzz phrase “shared sacrifice” has been uttered by politicians around the country to justify unpopular policy decisions designed to move budgets deep in the red back to black. But sticking broke and indebted college students with higher and sooner payments is a far cry from shared sacrifice: it’s smacking a population already stuck in an economically precarious position with new bills it can’t afford to pay—rather than raising taxes on those who can afford it.
Micah Uetricht is a staff writer with Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @micahuetricht.