(Washington, DC) – After spending last week meeting with faculty, administrators and students across Connecticut, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today delivered a speech on the U.S. Senate floor urging immediate action to return interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans to 3.4 percent. Interest rates doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1 after Congress failed to lock in the lower rate. During his speech, Blumenthal shared stories he heard last week during his meetings while visiting the following colleges: Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Middlesex Community College in Middletown, Northwestern Connecticut Community College in Winsted, and Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic.
An excerpt from Blumenthal’s speech as prepared for delivery is below.
“Over the past week, I had the chance to visit with constituents affected by this issue. I spoke with students, faculty, administrators, and local officials across Connecticut to discuss how this would affect the state.
“I was privileged to discuss the issue with representatives of many types of institutions. In Windham, at Eastern Connecticut State University, I spoke with President Elsa Nunez, Vice President Ken DeLisa, students, faculty, and town officials.
“At Middlesex Community College, I was privileged to hear the perspective of the Community College sector, and discuss the issue with President Anna Wasescha, Mayor Dan Drew of Middletown, my colleagues Senator Murphy and Representative Courtney, members of Representative DeLauro’s staff, and students and faculty. Irene Martin, the Director of Financial Aid at Middlesex, noted that many students cannot afford to be in school full-time, increasing the length of time it takes them to complete their schooling and enter repayment.
“I also visited with students and faculty at Northwestern Connecticut Community college, and spoke with President Barbara Douglas. The community college sector teaches many low-income borrowers, who are hit the hardest by the rate increases. Dr. Douglas noted that over 51 percent of her students receive some type of aid, including Stafford loans.
“Sam Chaney is a 2010 graduate of Quinnipiac. He said that when students graduate ‘you’re not just paying rent, you’re paying as much or more in student loans…I hope they’re not in the position I was in, being told not to worry about the sticker price of college.’”
“I also spoke with Irene Mulvey, the President of the Connecticut chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Her organization is constantly in contact with student borrowers, and knows just how much subsidized Stafford loans mean to them.
“Professor Mulvey said ‘As faculty members, we see the impact that student debt load has on our students and their families every day’ and called the doubling of rates ‘indefensible.’ She’s correct; it is indefensible.”