As Student Debt Rises in Vermont, Sanders Presses to Keep Interest Rate from Doubling

WASHINGTON, June 18 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said a new report released today by the Joint Economic Committee showed the average student loan debt in Vermont was greater than the amount in all but six other states.

In Vermont, 63 percent of college graduates hold student loans. The average balance is $28,860. That debt load amounts to 82 percent of the average annual income for recent graduates, a ratio of debt to earnings that ranks Vermont the highest in the nation.

A member of the special Joint Economic Committee, Sanders said the report underscores the need for legislation to stop interest rates from doubling to 6.8 percent on July 1 on federally subsidized Stafford loans. The report also urges the development of new strategies to make higher education more affordable.

“Short term, we need to make certain rates don’t go up this summer. Long term, we need to figure out a way to make college more affordable,” said Sanders, who also is a member of the Senate education committee. He supports a proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who introduced legislation that would ensure students are offered the same low 0.75 percent loan rate that the Federal Reserve gives big banks on Wall Street.

Nationwide, the report shows that student debt has increased significantly in recent years, nearly doubling from $550 billion in 2007 to almost $1 trillion in the first quarter of this year.

The Joint Economic Committee report shows that two-thirds of 2011 college graduates have student loan debt. Those borrowers have an average balance of more than $27,000, 60 percent of the average annual income for recent graduates.

If Congress doesn’t act, interest rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on new federally subsidized Stafford loans issued on or after July 1, increasing the cost of a college education by as much as $4,500.

To read the full report on student debt, click here.