Russ Carnahan discusses student loan concerns at Webster


“President Obama put this in perspective… he said, ‘In this new global economy, for us to succeed and for us to compete, we have to out-educate… out-invest our competitors in this economy,” Congressman Russ Carnahan said, quoting President Barack Obama in a press conference held in the East Academic Building.

CONTRIBUTED BY JEAN WHATLEY Congressman Russ Carnahan spoke about the possible increase of student loans at Webster University on Tuesday, May 1 in the East Academic Building. Approximately 34 percent of Webster students receive Pell Grants from the federal government.

On Tuesday May 1, Carnahan discussed the possible increase of student loans for institutions in the United States. Webster students and faculty were among the approximately 50 people who attended the press conference. Everyone seemed eager to learn how this would affect student loans.

A significant amount of Webster students receive some form of financial assistance. Approximately 34 percent of Webster students receive the federal Pell grant. Dr. Anne Edmunds, associate vice president of enrollment management, believes Webster’s mission statement includes helping to educate students who otherwise could not attain that information. She feels that reaching those students is truly important.

“We want to make sure that being able to take out that student loan is something that they (the students) are going to be able to understand, that they think is worthwhile. But as interest rates go up, they think that (loans are) something that might not be as worthwhile to invest in,” Edmunds said.

Webster tries to help their students by offsetting the interest rates of student loans through offering institutional aid. Although Webster wrestles with balancing institutional merit aid and institutional “need-based” aid, Edmunds said they want to achieve the enrollment goals of the institution.

More than 15 million students in the U.S. have taken student loans. In Missouri, 161,000 students will be victims of the increase on student loans in the next fiscal year. Missouri is one of the top 20 states that will be most impacted by this change.

During Carnahan’s second term in Congress, the “College Cost Production and Access Act” was passed. The bill brought interest rates on student loans down from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent, where they are today. If Congress does not address the rising student loan issue by July 1, the rates will return to 6.8 percent. Carnahan believes this would be a step in the wrong direction.

“In these times, we’ve seen interest rates of historic (increases)…we’ve seen college tuition creeping up among college students. This is definitely, definitely the wrong direction,” Carnahan said.

This past Friday, April 27, the House passed a bill that would prevent the increase of the interest rate on student loans. Although the bill passed in the House with a 215-195 vote, other programs were eliminated in the process. The preventative health care fund, part of President Barack Obama’s health care act, was eliminated. This would fund programs that help prevent cervical cancer, carry out newborn healthcare screenings and provide immunizations for children.

“It places students and teachers in a hostage-like situation with healthcare. This is a great country, we can do both of these things…we can do both,” Carnahan said.

Carnahan wants students to take a look at social media and speak up about student loans. He encouraged students to not only let the message reach the House members in Missouri, but also Senators such as Claire McCaskill and Matt Blunt.

“I know this is finals time. Even though I know this is graduation time, take the time to look at the social media to speak up, to let your voices to be heard,” Carnahan said. “And I certainly have heard from you. I have seen message after message with the hashtag “Don’t Raise My Rates” on Twitter.”

Junior anthropology major Kayla Thompson, who attended the press conference, said it was a great opportunity to learn and to see that her interests are supported by politicians.

“This was my first time actually hearing Congressman Russ Carnahan speak at our school,” Thompson said. “We need more congressman to raise awareness to students at our school.”

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