Reporting Dave Bryan
WESTWOOD (CBS) — Winning over young voters is expected to be a key factor for President Obama to win re-election and Tuesday night he took action, promising college students that he would keep education affordable.
Eight UCLA students packed into a dorm room to watch the president speak to a much larger crowd at the University of Colorado about the rising cost of paying for college and the mounting debt from student loans.
The host, political activist Vincent Hennerty, is a junior, majoring in archaeology. He is 22-years old and estimates that by the time he finishes his higher education, including graduate school, he will owe six figures in student loans.
“I’m guessing by the time I’m done with everything, if I continue with school and I don’t take any breaks off, I might even get into the hundreds of thousands,” Hennerty said.
Hennerty is not alone. Many UC students are piling up mountains of debt by the time they finish college and graduate school.
Both President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney agree that something must be done to freeze the current 3.4 percent interest rate on those loans, before July 1, when the interest rate would otherwise double to 6.8 percent.
Adara Valdez, 19, is a sophomore majoring in art history. She will incur no debt because her college is covered by the G.I. Bill, because of her father’s military service. But she says it is not fair that so many of her friends and close relatives are struggling with mounting debt and a weak job market.
“It has also been super hard to just go out and get a good job that can pay us enough, so that we can pay off these loans, as well as pay our bills every day,” Valdez said.
Chris Havahannessian, 22, is a junior majoring in sociology. By the time he finishes his higher education, including graduate school, he estimates his student loan debt will also hit six figures.
“I don’t think it’s fair, because today we go to school to have great jobs in the future and I think that we should pay back them through taxes. So by giving all these interest rates, it’s causing added pressure,” Havahannessian said.
To cut down on costs many college students are resorting to attending community colleges for their first two years, before going on to finish their education at four-year schools. Community colleges are still relatively cheaper, but costs are going up there as well.