On the Record: Brandon Anderson, student loans advocate
Vox got the opportunity to interview Brandon Anderson (COL ’14), a student veteran who is now fighting the doubling of Stafford student loan rates. As Congress has not acted on the issue, the loan rates are set to double effective tomorrow.
For several years, Stafford loans have been subsidized in order to help keep the rates low, 3.4 percent as of June 2013. As Congress has not acted, the subsidy will no longer be in effect, and the loan rates will rise to the unsubsidized rate of 6.8 percent. While the House did pass the Smarter Solutions for Students Act earlier this year, the loan rate remains tied to the yield on 10-year treasury notes.
The Obama administration has said that it will veto the bill should it pass the Senate, as student loan rates would remain in flux from year-to-year, rather than at a fixed rate for the life of the loan that would allow students to accurately predict how much they have to pay off once they graduate. There is a bill in the Senate that proposes to extend the current loan rate for another year, however, as Congress has taken a break for the July 4 holiday this week, students will not see any action on the bill soon.
Anderson, pictured at left on the far right, along with the head of the College Dems, Trevor Tezel (SFS ’14) and GUSA president Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), has spoken at press conferences alongside Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and conducted many interviews in order to further publicize the issue. He will be on World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer at 6:30 p.m. EST.
Read the interview after the jump.
Vox: What inspired you to take action and partner with GUSA? I know you’re personally invested in the issue, but what sort of unique opportunities did you see in working with GUSA?
Anderson: GUSA understands how pressing this issue is and the association has its hands on the pulse of the student body. Because this is an issue that affects millions of students across the country, including many here at Georgetown, partnering with GUSA to lobby on Capitol Hill just made sense.
Vox: Nate Tisa mentioned that if student loan rates are raised, it would affect diversity. What’s your take on the issue? Arguably, diversity at schools like Georgetown is already limited because of the overall rising cost of tuition.
Anderson: Nate brings up a good point. African-Americans and Hispanics are about twice as likely to graduate with student loan debt as whites. If we don’t make college more affordable and keep rates low, we will be ultimately be shutting out students of color from our universities.
Vox: What has the experience been like? You’ve definitely met some prominent members of Congress—do you think this sort of student advocacy has a strong impact on them?
Anderson: I’ve had incredible opportunities to meet members of Congress like Senator Harkin and Leader Pelosi throughout my time advocating on Capitol Hill. I believe that when students come together from around the country and demand that Congress take action, members do listen. And if not, we’ll show our strength during midterm elections by electing those who have shown a commitment to making college more affordable.
Vox: How confident are you that Congress will take action on this issue?
Anderson: Because Congress understands what’s at stake and that it’s in the best interest of the country, I’m confident that Congress will take action to keep student interest rates low.
Student loan debt in this country has surpassed $1 trillion. It’s simple: If college grads, on an entry level salary are paying over $26,000 on student loans, many don’t have the money to purchase a home or start a family. This will cause the economy to suffer.
Furthermore, the U.S. is in demand of skilled workers. By keeping the interest rates low and making college more affordable, we stand a better chance in producing more skilled laborers for the U.S. workforce.
Vox: What other initiatives or projects are you interested in? Are there other issues you think directly affect Georgetown students that need to be fixed?
Anderson: I am interested in education on a more general level – not only that higher education is both affordable and accessible for all students, but that students are prepared to succeed and do well at the college level.
Photo: Erin Armstrong