Watching President Obama sign the student loan interest rate bill

Hi there, Yesterday I went to the White House to see President Obama sign the bill that would keep the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4%. I took some pictures... they probably won't win any awards, but I tried :) This bill needed to be passed. It took months of hard work from everyone: campaigners, organizers, researchers, and policy wonks at organizations like Campus Progress, US PIRG, the US Students Association, CREDO, and Rebuild the Dream -- and the tens of thousands of folks who signed petitions, made calls, wrote letters, and shared their student debt stories. But we really, really, really aren't finished here. Keeping the interest rate at 3.4% is the very least that must be done. It's a small step. Just a few days after the bill passed, this happened -- it was a decision that was made months ago, and just recently went into effect:

Lawmakers ended a long-standing program that pays the interest on federally subsidized loans for six months after a student graduates from college. The change applies to new loans issued through July 2014. ..."It really makes the loans kind of unpredictable and hard to understand for students and families when these changes are happening through the budget process," said Megan McClean, managing director of policy and federal relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, a trade group.

No more grace period. That is unacceptable. When I graduated in 2011, I relied on that interest-free grace period so I could get my life in check. I knew I had 6 months to start paying back my government loans (private student loans? Had to start paying those off immediately) and didn't have to worry about interest building up. I took the money I saved up by working throughout high school and college and moved to Washington, D.C. so I could immediately start working and saving more. I was used to living on my own and I'd been financially independent since starting college. I'd made sure to have a string of good internships to build up a strong resume. Throughout college, it was always in the back of my mind that I'd have to start paying off my loans not long after graduating. That interest-free six months saved me money so I could take a gamble by moving to D.C. and make some big life decisions. That's what you do after college, right? America can't afford to not fund education. When, as a country, you're gearing students up to go to college, you shouldn't just suddenly wipe your hands clean when they hit 18 and say, "Sorry, you're on your own now." And then shovel them off to the side and hit them with high-interest loans, or suddenly take away a 6-month grace period. What message is that sending to students? To young people? We have so far to go, but this campaign was hugely important. It opened up a conversation about student loan debt. It made it a political issue. As young people and students, we have so much support from people all across America. It's exciting. Now we need to keep the momentum going and organize! Let's go!

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