By Michael Morella |
Every week, I hear directly from students and parents about their challenges paying for a college degree. I also hear from employers about their struggles to find qualified employees—especially in the high-demand fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Millions of Americans who are out of work know this simple fact—without a degree or specialized training, it is very difficult to get a job. We cannot let America become a country where only the elite can afford an education. Our educational system must ensure that everyone gets a fair shot. To make college more affordable, Congress needs to act to stop the interest rate on Stafford student loans from doubling on July 1.
According to a report by Georgetown University, over the next six years, we will need 22 million new workers with college degrees. At the current rate, we will fall short of that number by at least 3 million. To achieve this goal, we would have to increase the number of graduates by 10 percent per year. We need to make it easier for people to go to college, not harder.
College graduates have better jobs, make more money, are less reliant on public assistance and less likely to be incarcerated—all things that directly impact our economy. In fact, workers with a college degree earn about $1 million more over their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma. Yet only 38 percent of adults have a two- or four-year college degree.
Like that of many parents, my desire is to see my daughters graduate from college, get a good job, be able to afford to buy a home, and begin saving for retirement. It is vital that we protect families from exorbitant loan rates. Piling more debt on young people, while giving tax cuts to billionaires, does not reflect our values as Americans. Congress needs to immediately act to extend the lower interest rates on Stafford student loans. This is just common sense for our students, for our society, and for our economy.
About Gary Peters Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Amy Laitinen Senior Policy Analyst at Education Sector
Matthew M. Chingos Fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution
Brian Darling Senior Fellow for Government Studies at the Heritage Foundation