Lantern file photo and Courtesy of MCT
The issue of student loan debt has started to become the main focus of campaigns. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney agree to keep interest rates low on federal student loans, and are campaigning to do just that.
Obama spoke Tuesday at the University of North Carolina and Colorado University about pressuring Congress to not raise interest rates on federal student loans, and preached college affordability for the middle class.
“When a big chunk of every paycheck goes towards loan debt, that’s not just tough on you, that’s not just tough for middle-class families, it’s not just tough on your parents, it’s painful for the economy, because that money is not going to help businesses grow,” Obama said in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The federal student loan interest rates will double, effective July 1, if Congress does not pass legislation reducing the rate.
The official White House Twitter account is evidence of Obama’s opposition to this rate increase, creating hashtag trends such as #dontdoublemyrate. The phrase is also displayed in the White House Twitter profile picture.
But Obama is not the only one who is taking notice of the student loan debt in this country. Romney agrees with Obama.
Before a campaign event in Astor, Pa., Monday, Romney voiced his support to continue low interest rates on federal student loans.
“With the number of college graduates who can’t find work or who can only find work well beneath their skill level, I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans,” Romney said.
Ohio State political science professor, Elliot Slotnick, said while it’s early in the campaign, Romney might be engaging in “me-tooism.”
“(Romney is) moving toward the center on somewhat consensual issues more than he has been able to do when the focus was on attracting the Republican party’s primary base,” Slotnick said. “He has a delicate task to perform in moving in the direction of the general voting electorate while maintaining and gaining the support of the Republican base.”
However, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it would cost the United States $6 billion to extend the low interest on federal student loans for just one year.
But with the average debt that an Ohio student obtains upon graduation at $27,713 in 2010, many college affordability experts say it was only a matter of time until student loan debt emerged into the national spotlight.
William Brewer, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, discussed the problem student loan debt has become for the national economy.
“The amount of student borrowing crossed the $100 billion threshold for the first time in 2010 and total outstanding loans exceeded $1 trillion for the first time last year,” he said.
Obama acknowledged this specific problem as he delivered his speech Tuesday in Boulder, Colo.
“Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards,” Obama said. “And living with that kind of debt means some pretty tough choices when you’re first starting out.”
One OSU student said he believes both candidates are smart for appealing to young voters for the upcoming presidential election.
Chris Bellman, a first-year in electrical computer engineering, said he thinks Obama will be more appealing, however, because of his stance on social issues.
“Obama is more socially liberal, which gives him more of an advantage over Romney,” Bellman said. “To college kids, he’s more appealing because of his stance on social issues.”
Obama will be kicking off his national re-election campaign with a rally at OSU May 5, according to an Obama campaign official.
Kristen Mitchell contributed to this story.