In a push to younger voters, President Barack Obama is touring college campuses this week to discuss the problems of student loan debt. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is blaming the president for the poor job market that college graduates enter.
Interest rates for subsidized Stafford Loans are set to double this summer, going from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The White House projects more than 7.5 million students will face steeper debt if lawmakers don't act to freeze the interest rate. Mr. Obama says that should be a higher priority than protecting tax breaks for wealthy Americans.
But in a Senate floor speech, McConnell says the president is too busy pointing fingers and not taking responsibility for the poor economy that students face. “It’s the millionaires. It’s the banks. It’s big oil. It’s the weather. It’s Fox News. It’s anything but him. And it’s absurd. I mean, if you believe that a president who got everything he wanted for two years—two whole years—has nothing to do with the problems we face, then I’ve got a solar panel company to sell you,” he says.
Instead of loan debt, McConnell is highlighting that over half of college graduates with bachelor's degrees are either jobless or underemployed. Besides fewer job opportunities, an analysis of data shows median wages are also down for college graduates.
Economists and market analysts, however, point out that graduates face poor job prospects and rising tuition costs that result in student loan debt. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has estimated about 15 percent of Americans have outstanding student loan debt and estimates put the total cost between $850 billion to $1 trillion.
The president began his college tour with a visit to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Tuesday to pressure Congress to act on the interest loan issue before the July 1 deadline. Mr. Obama will make another visit to the University of Colorado later this week.
McConnell says the president is making a re-election pitch, and that college graduates won't buy it. “They’re jaded, because a candidate who said he was different turned out to be just another politician who seems more concerned with reelection than reform. Not only has he failed to step up to the challenges we face, he’s aggravated them,” he says. “And even most college graduates—those best-equipped to step into the modern economy—either can't find work to match their skills or can’t find work at all.”