President Barack Obama and Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney are campaigning to drum up young voters’ support this week.
Both candidates have pledged support for a proposal to cap the interest rate on federal Stafford student loans at 3.4 percent. Without congressional action, the rate will double to 6.8 percent July 1.
“I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates for students,” Romney said Monday at a campaign stop in Pennsylvania — one of five states that held a presidential primary Tuesday.
Young voters made up 22 percent of the Minnesota electorate in 2008, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center. Young voters were also instrumental in Obama’s win: In 2008, 66 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 nationwide voted for Obama. Fifty-three percent of voters overall chose Obama that year.
At nearly $1 trillion, student loan debt has exceeded credit card debt in the U.S., according to FinAid.org, a website that provides student aid information.
The average 2011 University of Minnesota bachelor’s degree graduate left school with about $27,000 in student loan debt — up from about $18,000 for 2005 graduates.
On Tuesday, Obama spoke directly to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado-Boulder. He’ll visit the University of Iowa on Wednesday.
In a conference call Tuesday, Obama called the rate’s doubling “completely avoidable,” citing the loan’s importance in keeping college affordable and strengthening the middle class.
“In America, higher education can’t be a luxury. It’s an economic imperative that every family’s got to be able to afford,” Obama said.
In his speech at Chapel Hill, Obama said cutting subsidies to oil companies and tax breaks to wealthy Americans could help pay to extend the current loan rate cap for another year.
In a campaign appearance Monday, Romney blamed the Obama administration for racking up a debt that young people will pay off for the rest of their lives.
“We’re fighting to make sure that we can reduce the deficits and eliminate this debt overhang, and yet the president continues to amass these huge deficits,” Romney said.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.