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Earlier this year the United States Congress failed to pass a proposal to effectively keep college loan interest rates at a low and affordable rates. Though a fixed rate of 6.8% was set in 2006, rates have gradually been reduced to 3.4% in recent years. With no new legislation on the books the interest rates popped back up to their ’06 standards which sent many students into a frenzy. Nonetheless the nation did little to help struggling students.

Senator Dick Durbin (Dem, IL) mediated talks between congressional Republicans and Democrats to come to an agreeable resolution. “We understand that it’s more than the interest rate that’s causing a problem,” he said. “Let’s give the students and families the help they need today, but let’s not stop on the issue.” Officials on both sides of the aisle worked to both lower the overall cost of higher education while at the same time lowering interest rates and minimizing the profits made by the government on student loans. The Dallas News has the full report.

All of this political bickering has left students feeling unrepresented, stressed and uncertain about their futures. In New York City a long time free college (that’s right, F-R-E-E) had to finally begin charging tuition to overcome dire financial circumstances. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has been free to students since its founding in 1859. College President Jamshed Bharucha was forced by circumstance to appeal to the Board of Trustees who voted to begin charging tuition in the Fall 2014 semester. This led students to organize a sit-in with the goal of forcing Bharucha to step down as president. After 65 days of protesting the student organizers and board members reached an agreement which includes adding a student representative to the Board of Trustees.

Moving from the East coast to the West coast, the state legislation in Oregon passed a bill in July to research a “Pay It Forward, Pay It Back” (PIF) plan. This type of financial arrangement would allow students attending public universities in Oregon to go to college for free, but they must agree to pay up to three percent of their salaries back to the state for the next 20 years. Will this radical plan work? Only time will tell. However with tuition across the nation increasing 1120% since 1978 its obvious something needs to be done.

Students across America are taking matters into their own hands. In lieu of traditional colleges and universities, many are choosing to gain specific education from trade and vocational schools. The Stenotype Institute in Florida, for example, trains students who wish to become court stenographers or work in closed captioned television. Like many schools of their kind they offer both in-class and online training programs. The flexibility of the schedule, shorter education time and lower cost is a strong appeal to students looking at high interest rates on loans.

So what will the outcome be? Only time can tell. On the one hand the government should make a decent return on their investment. On the other hand this return can be seen in the economic output and stability of its citizens versus a high interest pay-out. If nations like the United Kingdom can afford free public higher education to its citizens (and at the same time provide free national healthcare) the United States can buy a few billion less bullets and invest back into its youth whose shoulders the economy of tomorrow rests upon.

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This article was written in collaboration with The Stenotype Institute. Learn more about us on YouTube and Facebook.

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