Guyanese Americans must lobby for extension of low cost student loans
Unlike in Guyana where college education is virtually free or offered at a very low cost, in the U.S students depend on loans to pay for their college education.
The federal government subsidizes the student loans. But these are set to expire in July if Congress does not act to extend the low interest loans given through private banks.
Guyanese and other immigrant communities as well as poor students are lobbying New York lawmakers to act immediately to extend the low interest loans because it benefits so many deserving financially needy students who need the loans to attend college.
People like myself are lobbying members of Congress, including Greg Meeks, to take up the issue to help poor students.
Immigrant communities like where Guyanese live in Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens needed financial assistance to go to college.
In 2007, Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which, among other things, reduced rates on federal loans over several years to the current rate of 3.4 percent.
The CCRAA of 2007 enjoyed bipartisan support from Republicans and democrats.
But now the Republicans are not willing to support a Bill to extend the loans unless the Democrats agree to cuts in other budget areas – somewhat similar to budget disagreements in Guyana between the opposition and the government.
Unless the college loans are extended by a Congressional Act and signed by the President, the interest will double to 6.8 percent – which few students can afford. Some 7.4 million students get subsidized loans. At public universities which have the lowest tuition in the country, over three quarters of the student population receive grants or loans for college tuition.
Without these loans or grants, they will not afford to pay even the lowest tuition and will lead to mass drop rates.
Responding to pressures from their constituents, many lawmakers are appealing to the Republican controlled Congress urging it to extend the low cost loans.
Congressman Meeks of Richmond Hill is taking a lead role to extend the low interest loans.
Guyanese Americans I spoke with feel holding students hostage to political games based on ideology between Democrats and Republicans is wrong.
They say with the economy the way it is now with loss of jobs, it’s unfair for kids to bear a burden of higher interest rates.
The loans are awarded based on financial need and parental income. Only those with the lowest income are qualified for low interest loans. About one-third of undergraduate students have subsidized loans. Almost every Guyanese receives financial assistance or loans to afford college.
Guyanese community leaders say it is important that Democrats and Republicans work together to keep the subsidized loan interest rate at 3.4 percent.
They also call on President Obama to budget more money for financial aid to deserving students. Student loans and unpaid financial aid (grants) remain a critical means for students to pay for their higher education.
College affordability and financing higher education is a critical issue today and tomorrow. Guyanese Americans need to continue to apply pressure on US lawmakers to extend the loans as it serves their interest. More people need to take action rather myself and Vishnu Mahadeo.