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NEA to Congress: Act now to keep American dream within reach for millions

WASHINGTON - April 25, 2012 -

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel joined President Barack Obama in calling on Congress to act now to keep interest rates on federal student loans from doubling in July. In addition, President Obama called on Congress to make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent and to double the number of work-study jobs available to students over the next five years.

“We agree wholeheartedly with President Obama,” said Van Roekel. “Congress needs to act quickly to keep the American dream within reach of millions of Americans, because all Americans should have access to high-quality higher education, regardless of their race, income, age, gender, or where they live.”

More than 7.4 million students with federal student loans will see their interest rates double on July 1 unless Congress steps in to keep them low.  For each year Congress allows the rate to double, the average student with these loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.

“We know that a college degree means students will have the opportunity for a better life—their piece of the American dream!” continued Van Roekel. “And that one way to help them become the leaders of tomorrow is by making sure that a college education is not just a privilege for some but is available to all who want to attend.”

Lawmakers need to consider the needs of students, who, after all, are the nation’s future teachers, nurses, doctors, scientists, and entrepreneurs, said Renatae Cuffee, a junior at Delaware State University. Cuffee juggles a full course load in elementary education, a part-time tutoring job, and parenting her two children.  “Even students with part-time jobs can’t afford to sustain their schooling and their living,” Cuffee warned.  “And, at the end of the day, if they can’t afford to put food on their table or a roof over their heads, college is going to go.”

Unfortunately for Cuffee and aspiring educators like her, Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress just don’t get it. Although Romney supports keeping interest rates from ballooning, this turnabout contradicts his unwavering support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s dream-killing budget proposal, which would slash Pell Grants for more than 9 million students seeking a college education.

“We urge Romney to lean on his Republican friends on Capitol Hill to put students ahead of politics and to keep interest rates from doubling in July. This is the right thing to do for students now and for our future,” concluded Van Roekel.  

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823,