Press Release

Gillibrand Takes to Senate Floor in Fight to Protect Low-Interest Student Loans, Make College More Affordable

May 9, 2012

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke on the Senate floor today to urge all her colleagues to work together to find a solution to prevent interest rates on Stafford Loans from doubling on July 1, which would force more than 420,000 young New Yorkers to pay an additional $340 million in interest on student loans.


Senator Gillibrand’s remarks:

I rise today to join my colleagues in calling for a real solution to the impending student debt crisis. 

Yesterday, we had a chance to do the right thing and stand with millions of young Americans all across the country by investing in their future by preventing interest rates from doubling on Stafford Loans in just 52 days from now.  

But instead, our colleagues across the aisle chose to stand in the way of this common sense proposal. As a result, 7 million students are facing higher interest rates that will cost them an extra $1000 each year in interest – further pushing access to quality higher education out of the reach for too many, and saddling others with additional unmanageable debt when they get out of college and join the workforce.  

You don’t have to take it from me how tough this is going to hit them. Take it from the students and families themselves.

Within hours of yesterday’s filibuster by our colleagues, I heard from dozens of New Yorkers who went online to tell me their personal stories of what a doubling in the interest rate of their student loans would mean to them. 

I heard from one New York parent with one child in college and another heading there this fall. Their older child spent a year in AmeriCorps, their younger is there serving now. He said, “These are kids serving America. Both of my kids will leave college with around $25,000 in debt, if we can afford to keep it down that much.” We should all be able to agree that adding another $1,000 or more per year in debt for kids only looking to serve their country, get a good education and rebuild this economy is just wrong.

I heard from a woman in the Bronx – she has a job as a social worker, and is on track to pay off her student loans in the next ten to eleven years – just in time for her twin daughters to start college. She said, “doubling my student loan interest will keep me in debt at time when I’m going to need every penny to help my kids get through college with as little of their own debt as possible.

“The more interest I pay, the more they’ll have to borrow for their own educations, and the cycle will continue indefinitely.”

I heard from a woman in Saratoga with a bachelor’s degree in hotel resort and tourism management. Despite making good money, she says that paying her $800/month in student loans on top of her everyday bills makes getting by nearly impossible. She said, “My choice is to instead decide what bill I’m going to pay this month, making me fall behind in my payments, destroying my credit for the future. If my interest rate was any higher, I honestly do not know how i would survive at all. Pretty much all of the money I am making is going straight into student loans. We need all the help we can get.”

These are just some of the stories I heard yesterday. And these families expect better from us.

When we price young people out of a college education, we all pay a price. When we limit their opportunity, we rob ourselves of a future engineer or biologist. 

America’s ability to lead the global economy – relies on our ability to out-educate the global competition. 

Let’s open the doors to higher education to anyone who is willing to work for it. And let’s keep it affordable. Let’s reward hard work and responsibility – instead of risk.

There’s no excuse for inaction. So let’s have a real debate in good faith to solve this problem that we all know is within our reach. Students and families across America can’t afford any more delay.