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June 22, 2012

Congress Must Act Now to Help Students, Not Big Polluters

The clock is ticking -- if Congress does not act by a fast-approaching July 1 deadline, interest rates on new subsidized student loans are scheduled to double. Without action, that will mean more than 7 million students will accrue an additional $1,000 in debt every year.

President Obama has expressed his commitment to maintaining the affordability of a college education, and avoiding an increase in interest rates on student loans -- and the Sierra Student Coalition applauds his efforts. As a staff member for the Sierra Student Coalition -- one of the largest campus-based environmental groups in the country -- I work with students everyday who struggle to pay for tuition, books, housing, and the cost of living associated with a higher education. Its critical that the financial burden they face after graduation doesn't derail them from reaching their full potential and pursuing careers that will help make the world a better place.

But keeping student interest rates low is important not only for the sake of an education, but also for our environment.  

The big banks that control the majority of student debt are the same institutions that are leading funders of dirty energy production all across the country. Citi, Chase, and Bank of America are all among the top financiers of coal and mountaintop removal mining - and they are also some of the biggest holders of student loan debt. That means that the handful of banks that rake in billions in student loan interest are turning around and pumping their profits into supporting the dirty energy industry that is polluting our planet and making kids sick. Effectively, money is being taken out of the hands of those who are hoping to get started with their careers and its being put in the pockets of big polluters.

The Sierra Club agrees with President Obama -- higher education is essential to our economy and to individual success, and every student deserves the opportunity to obtain the training necessary to get a job in today’s economy. Our priority should be supporting a brighter future, not financing the dirty energy of the past.

-- Randy Downs, Sierra Student Coalition

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