Ellison calls for continued Stafford subsidies

The congressman urged students to take action at a panel Thursday

Kia Farhang

When Rep. Keith Ellison  graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School  in 1990 , he had $12,000 in debt.

Now the cost of higher education is keeping the congressman’s son from making life decisions – like whether to move out or have children – because he can’t afford them, Ellison said.

“He’s doing well, but he’s carrying a lot of debt,” Ellison said.

The congressman urged students to support him in maintaining the interest rate on Stafford loans , which are set to double this summer, at a panel held Thursday in the Science Teaching & Student Services  building.

Stafford loans are the most common type of federal loans. Without congressional action, the interest rate on the loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.

“We gotta ask ourselves what kind of society we want, and then we have to go and build it,” Ellison said. Continuing to subsidize Stafford loans will lead to a productive, educated workforce, he added, which is worth the cost in the long run.

In 2012, the White House estimated more than 7 million students nationwide would pay more for their student loans if the rates increased. In Minnesota alone, more than 207,000 students have taken out the loan, according to the White House.

An ‘amenities arms race’

Minnesota Student Association  President Taylor Williams , a panelist at the event, said the cost of higher education has risen partly because schools are in an “amenities arms race” to get the best facilities and perks.

That rise in tuition has hit students from middle-class families the hardest, Williams said, because they don’t qualify for much financial aid.

“I have a number of friends whose families only make $10,000 [to] $20,000 more than mine, but get absolutely no aid,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s ruining their lives.”

Williams said schools need to be more transparent so students know where their tuition is going.

“We are consumers,” he said. “We have the right to know what we’re paying for.”

Sebastian Ewald , a classical civilizations junior, said he wanted to hear more about the University’s administrative costs at the panel.

“Management seems to be the issue,” he said, “and being good custodians of student and taxpayer money.”

The University also gives too much money to student groups like MSA to spend however they want, Ewald said.

“I get student groups are a lot of fun,” he said. “The fact is, maybe it’s time to reevaluate some of our priorities on some of that stuff.”