As Congress Debates Student Loans, Alaska Should Act
Reps. Gara and Tarr reach out to fellow legislators to lower student loan costs
Today, as Congress continues to debate the doubling of federal student loan rates, Representative Les Gara and Representative Geran Tarr (both D-Anchorage) reached out to fellow Alaska lawmakers to help lower the costs of higher education, job training, and high student loan rates for Alaskans. The two lawmakers wrote their colleagues in the House of Representatives seeking their input and collaboration before the 2014 legislative session.
“We all want to help Alaskans get good jobs in Alaska, and lowering the cost of student loans and job training for Alaskans is the right thing to do,” said Rep. Tarr. “We can solve this problem for Alaskans in a way that works for Alaskans, and I look forward to that discussion.”
“Money shouldn’t be a barrier to success to people who want to get job skills, either in college or through job training,” said Rep. Gara. “Higher education and job training change lives, create a trained workforce, and improve Alaska’s economy.”
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, student loan debt in America has become the second most crippling form of debt, after mortgages, and making students pay a higher rate than what they receive in salary increases creates a burden that threatens to suffocate success. Many Alaskans’ debt load is likely to increase now that Congress allowed the federal student loan rate to double from 3.4% to 6.8%. Over the past 5 years loan rates in Alaska have ranged between 6.5-7.5%.
Molly Towner, an Anchorage-area teacher and single mother of two children, said, “I attended graduate school in Alaska when my children were very young to prepare myself for a job that could cover the living expenses for our family of three. I am committed to the teaching profession and the state of Alaska. It is challenging, however, to cover all of our expenses, which include a monthly student loan payment of over $600. I support the plan to reduce the student loan burden for families like mine in Alaska through the student loan reduction bill.”
In 2013, Rep. Gara and Rep. Tarr, along with nine of their Democratic colleagues introduced legislation (HB 17) that would lower the Alaska student loan debt for residents who stay in or return to Alaska to work. In the letter, the two Democratic legislators say they “would appreciate your collaboration and input as we continue working on ways to lower the cost of post-secondary education and job training leading up to next session.”