After visiting three college campuses to talk about student loan debt last week, President Obama is taking the issue to an Arlington high school on Friday.
Obama is expected to talk at 11:50 a.m. with Washington-Lee High School juniors and seniors, and continue his push for Congress to extend a low-interest rate on federal subsidized student loans for another year. Right now that rate is at 3.4 percent, and it is set to double on July 1, returning to its previous rate of 6.8 percent.
The increase would affect more than 7 million students who have Stafford loans, according to the White House. In Virginia there are more than 177,000 such students, who each would have to pay about $1,000 more over the lifetime of the loan.
Federal Stafford loans are just one type of student loan, although they are one of the most common. Most college students are eligible, as long as they can demonstrate financial need and are enrolled at least part-time. But there are limits: First-year undergraduates who are dependent on their parents can only take out $5,500 that year.
Student loan debt is a topic that has been embraced by Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, both of whom are looking to reach young voters. Crushing student loan debt, along with a down economy, has been blamed for more 20-somethings moving back in with their parents and delaying life events like marriage, parenthood or buying a home.
The amount of outstanding student loan debt is poised to hit $1 trillion this month, according to Mark Kantrowitz, who publishes two financial aid Web sites and has been tracking the amount for years. Much of that debt is loans from private lenders. The Federal Reserve reported in February that the amount of federal student loans held by the government had reached $453.3 billion.
Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan to meet beforehand with three Washington-Lee seniors who are college bound and plan to use Stafford loans. Their parents are also expected to attend.
The three students are: Amirah Delwin, one of six children who plans to attend Old Dominion University and study psychology. Brendan Craig, the son of a pastor and kindergarten teacher who plans to major in general engineering at Virginia Tech. And Rina Castaneda, who will be the first in her family to attend college when she attends Virginia Commonwealth University this fall.
This is Obama’s fifth visit to an Arlington public school since becoming president.
Washington-Lee has been rated one of the top high schools in the metro area by the Post’s Jay Matthews. The school of about 2,000 students has a nearly perfect four-year graduation rate. Last year its average SAT score was 1,669, higher than the national average of 1,500. The school offers more than 20 Advanced Placement courses, and about three-fourths of students attend a four-year college. About one-third of Washington-Lee students qualify for subsidized lunches.
I plan to attend the event and will tweet updates, which you can follow here: