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The reality of student loan debt

Students consider candidates’ stance on the student loan crisis among the top priorities in the upcoming election.
Graphic by Cain Madden / The Daily Mississippian

The United States Senate passed the appropriate measures to avoid the doubling of interest rates on new subsidized Federal Direct Stafford loans for undergraduate students from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on Tuesday.
If action had not been taken by July 1, students across the country would have been forced into a more expensive situation. 2012 Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are fully aware of the dire student debt situation, and though both candidates are against any increase in student loan interest rates, each is making strides to win voters with his own strategies to cope with the crisis.
At the University of Mississippi, students are watching this situation very closely. Students in Oxford, like all college students, will carefully consider this issue when deciding who to vote for in November.
“I definitely want a leader who will fight for me and other students to make our futures better,” business management junior Bill Sullivan said. “In November, I will vote for the candidate that best represents my ideas on this issue.”
The Office of Financial Aid at Ole Miss deals with thousands of students who have taken out student loans to help pay for their education. Though it is not uncommon for college students to consider student debt issues when deciding which political leader to vote for, it is especially important during this election cycle considering the statistics students are facing.
The cost of a college education has been rising by about 9 percent per year over the last ten years, according to the Department of Education. The University of Mississippi’s tuition is increasing by 8.5 percent starting this fall.
On average, one year at a public university now costs more than $15,000. While the yearly in-state tuition rates at Ole Miss fall well below that mark, students in Oxford are still dealing with financial uncertainty in a shaky economy. According to Project on Student Debt, two-thirds of college seniors graduated with loans in 2010, and they carried an average of $25,250 in debt.
In addition to having the weight of thousands of dollars on their shoulders in the future, students also face the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates in recent history at 9.1 percent. Employment is another platform that many students are eying for the upcoming election.
“It’s really hard knowing that I will have to repay tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt when I will probably struggle to find a job in this economy,” graduate student Sarah Dreary said. “Even with a masters degree, I know nothing is guaranteed.”
Dreary said she is still uncertain who she will vote for in November, but did mention that the student debt crisis would be one of her major concerns.
Obama recently addressed a group of students at the White House about the student loan crisis, and pointed fingers at the Republicans for the long, drawn-out process of putting a stop to the interest increase.
“Congress has had time to fix this for months,” he said, according to a CBS News article.
Political analysts believe Obama was taking a shot at Republicans to increase his own stock for re-election.
However, the Republicanled House of Representatives argued that they already passed a bill that would solve the problem that loomed on July 1, and that President Obama used the Senate’s slow action as leverage to gain voters for November.
Supporters of Romney have seemed to bank on the idea that the student debt crisis is a result of Obama’s failure to deliver on his promises when he was elected in 2008.