EDITORIAL: $1 trillion and counting

City College students have seen fees almost double in the last two years while financial aid has become increasingly more difficult to obtain, forcing many more students to turn to student loans to struggle even more to pay their way through college.

According to Robert Applebaum, founder of ForgiveStudentLoanDebt.com, student loan debt has fi nally exceeded $1 trillion, while the cost of higher education has grown more than 800 percent since 1980 and continues to do so. This is why Applebaum is advocating for the government to pass legislation—HR 4170: Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012—to forgive student loan debt for qualified individuals and to cap interest rates at 3.4 percent.

Last week President Barack Obama went on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” to “slow jam the news” and inform the public that interest rates are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, burdening an already overextended portion of the populous.

“I’ve called on Congress to prevent this from happening,” slow-jammed Obama. “Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.”

Why shouldn’t the government pass legislation that will put more money back in the hands of hardworking people struggling to pay back large amounts of student debt and stave off interest rates on the verge of doubling in this diffi cult economy?

Since 2000, when George W. Bush took the reigns of the executive branch of government, tax rates for the wealthy have gone down dramatically. Some $700 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Funds has been doled out to save the fi nancial industry that destroyed America’s economy and General Motors received help from the government to save them from bankruptcy.

Since 2009, under the helm of President Barack Obama and with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, austerity measures have cut back funding for education and social programs that directly help the poor and less fortunate obtain a higher education so they can compete in an economy where a college education may mean the difference between struggling to survive an living in relative comfort.

Most, if not all, Americans know of someone with astronomical amounts of debt due to student loans, individuals who after college can’t afford to live because their payments are so high. Is this the future facing all students who need to borrow money so they can be well educated?

“The reason it’s so important to keep down costs is so we can keep college affordable,” Obama said.

Imagine for a moment a government that places a higher value on educating its constituents over tax breaks for the wealthy, a government that believes in opportunity for all, a government founded on the basic principle of equality. Then ask yourself: Does that sound like American government?

It can be. The future we imagine is entirely up to us. We can sit back and allow our elected representatives to fi ght for us, or we can continue to allow them to fight for corporations and tax cuts for millionaires.