As Republican candidate Mitt Romney gets closer to clinching the GOP nominee bid for November’s election, campaigning for the White House has officially begun for the conservative candidate and President Barack Obama. Among the first issues being contested by the nominees is the potential increase in student loan rates.
The federal Direct Stafford Loan interest rate is at 3.4 percent. Student loan debt surpassed credit card debt in 2010, and the loan rate will double to 6.8 percent July 1 unless Congress intervenes.
Obama went after the youth vote aggressively last week, stopping at college campuses in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa, as well as appearing on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” stating the government should intervene to stop the interest rate from doubling.
“(Doubling the rate) means some hardworking students will be paying about $1,000 extra just to get their education,” Obama said during his appearance on Fallon’s show. “So I’ve called on Congress to prevent this from happening. What we said is simple. Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.”
Obama also touted his plan for lowering student loans with personal touches that further separate his position from Romney’s.
“This is personal for me because Michelle and I, we financed basically our entire college and law school educations with loans and debt, and for the first 10 years of our marriage, we were still paying stuff off,” Obama said to Fallon. “We didn’t finish paying off all of our student loans until about eight years ago.”
Romney, although unable to identify with the common cash-strapped student, appealed to students in a different manner. Last week, Romney visited Otterbein University in Ohio, where he encouraged students to pursue education, despite the struggling economy, by borrowing money from their parents. Romney reportedly relied on his family’s wealth during college by selling stock his father gave him.
“We’ve always encouraged young people: take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business,” Romney said.
Despite the personal appeals from both candidates, Romney urged college voters at Otterbein to focus on the facts, not the stories.
“Words are easily malleable, but facts, they’re stubborn,” Romney said. “And so I suggest that in the campaign ahead and in the campaigns of various officers running for various positions ahead, that you consider not just the brilliance of their words, but also the facts of their record and what they’ve done.”