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A push to bring back subsidized student loans

Student Loan Debt

The cost of getting an education has increased substantially in the last decade. No longer is attaining an education an affordable venture. The fact of the matter is while costs have steadily increased, the amount of assistance that is offered to low-income and middle-class students has steadily decreased.

The Department of Education used to offer subsidized loans for graduate students including law school students up until 2011 when Congress voted to end the program. It is far cheaper on graduate students to take out a subsidized loan as opposed to an unsubsidized loan where interest rates on unsubsidized loans cost student’s tens of thousands of dollars extra on top of borrowing the money to cover the cost of tuition and fees.

The fact of the matter is when all is said and done, I will personally be forced to pay back nearly a hundred thousand dollars from my student loans with the addition of 6.8 percent interest on all those loans. Banks can borrow from the federal government at an interest rate of 1 percent, and yet our same government is charging college student’s an interest rate of 6.8 percent, which means we are charged 5.8 times more to borrow from the Federal Government than Bank of America, CitiBank, and every financial institution.

Why are we charged 5.8 percent more to borrow money than the financial institutions? Is it because the government hates college students? No, of course not. It’s because collectively the banking sector spends millions on lobbying Congress and the executive and collectively they have thousands of lobbyists flooding capitol hill representing them. There are more lobbyists representing the various financial institutions than there are congressmen serving the people. Yet the American college students have no such lobbying group representing us. We have nobody fighting for us on Capitol Hill.

The legal profession is facing a growing problem. An entire generation of lawyers will soon retire. And yet my graduation class at my school is the smallest it’s been in many years. Last year, law schools across the country have seen fewer applicants than in over twenty-five years. The same is true for doctors, social workers, and other professions. The problem isn’t that nobody wants to be a doctor or a lawyer. The problem is that nobody can afford to be a doctor or a lawyer.

Congresswoman Judy Chu of California has put forth legislation – H.R. 4223 – which would bring back subsidized Direct Stafford loans for graduate students and make the costs of getting an education much more affordable for millions of Americans once again.  The bill was just introduced three months ago and was referred to the Education and Workforce Committee. While this bill, if passed, would ultimately cost $18 billion dollars over the course of the next decade, that represents only 0.0045 percent of federal spending (which will be $40+ trillion over the next 10 years).

Please reach out to your representatives in Congress today – both your representatives and senators – and ask them if they would be willing to co-sponsor this legislation which will help make graduate school affordable for millions of Americans. Together, if we all speak up and advocate for passage of this legislation, we can make a positive impact on the lives of millions of Americans struggling with college debt and who are burdened with the high cost of obtaining a college degree.

Bobby Berriault Prior to starting law school, Bobby Berriault was employed with the Connecticut General Assembly as a sessional worker with the House Democratic Legislative Caucus. He was also the co-founder of CT-SEED (Connecticut Students for Education and Economical Development), a lobbying organization which advocated for the 126,000+ college students enrolled in Connecticut's public colleges and universities for increases in state funding and against tuition increases. He is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University and is currently a 1L student at Western New England University School of Law and resides in New Britain, Conn.