"We're concerned with a whole host of issues that affect middle class families, especially education," Noel Wiggins, co-coordinator of the Claremont Inland Valley MoveOn Organization, said Friday. "In this market, it's extremely difficult to vie for employment without a college degree."
Only a small group rallied at the corner of Garey Avenue and Mission Boulevard on Thursday afternoon, Wiggins said, as the group had originally planned on a different site. The rally was part of a planned national day of action by the liberal group.
"I have a daughter-in-law who went back to get a master's degree. She's been working in the public school system for years," and was encouraged to get a counseling degree by school officials, Wiggins said. "She went back and incurred that debt. And all of those positions dried up, really putting the family in jeopardy."
And on Monday, Wiggins' daughter-in-law will likely see her 3.4 percent interest rate on her Stafford student loan double to 6.8 when a federal subsidy is set to expire at midnight Sunday night.
Wiggins isn't alone in her frustration: Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, issued a statement on Congress' failure to extend the lower interest rates on Friday.
"Many hard working students in the Inland Empire and across the nation will be forced to pay an average of $1,000 more for their education because student loan rates are set to double on July 1," McLeod said in a statement. "Not only will this hurt them financially, it will harm America's families, businesses, and our economy. I joined colleagues this past month by signing a discharge petition urging House Leadership to bring HR 1595, the Student Loan Relief Act, up for a vote. This common sense legislation, for which I am also a cosponsor of, would freeze current loan rates for two years. It's time for Congress to act on behalf of the nation's students and prevent this rate hike from occurring." On June 13, McLeod introduced HR 2349, the Get Relief from Academic Debt (GRAD) Act of 2013, which would extend the grace period that recent graduates have to find a job before they must begin repaying their Stafford loan from six months to a year.
Unless there's a last-minute deal, 7.4 million former university students will be seeing their loan interest double during summer vacation.
"You've got to be optimistic," Wiggins said. "It's pretty clear that the rates and policies that students have to pay is out of line."