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It's not every day you meet a college sophomore who serves burgers at the local McDonald's drive-thru just to put herself through college and graduate with a degree in quantitative economics. But in light of recent tuition hikes and the doubling of some student loan rates, that's exactly what 18-year-old Hayley Hohman — an Eastern Washington native and Washington State University "Cougar" — is doing to fund her final years of college.
I know what it's like to be in Hayley's shoes. As someone who once worked the drive-thru window at our neighborhood McDonald's, just a few miles north of where Hayley works now, that is exactly what I had to do to put myself through college, too. But it's far more difficult for today’s millennial generation than it ever was before — especially when the president and Senate Democrats refuse to act on student loan interest rates. While House Republicans passed The Smarter Solutions for Students Act in May, students all across this country saw interest rates for new federally subsidized student loans double on July 1 because Senate Democrats failed to act.
It is students like Hayley — and the millions of young people like her — who will pay the price for Democrats' inaction. If the Democrats do not act soon to reverse the doubling of student loan interest rates, she may not be able to afford to finish college. And she’s not the only one.
In fact, according to a recent Fidelity Investments study, 70% of those in the class of 2013 graduated with some kind of debt, averaging over $35,000 per student. Over 60% of college students nationwide borrow annually to help cover the cost of college.
That's why raising student loan interest rates is the worst thing we could do to college students right now. We're elected to Congress to help the people we represent — to make it easier for them to go to college, receive an education, and find a job once they graduate.
Despite the many years that separate Hayley and me, our shared stories — of Eastern Washington roots, long McDonald's workdays, and the determination to put ourselves through school — are strikingly similar. And when I look at today’s millennial generation, it’s students like Hayley that Republicans work every single day to protect.
Republicans have fought to make sure more students like Hayley can afford to go to college. We've acted to prevent their rates from doubling. Now it's time for Democrats to do the same thing.