Obama speaks to Tri-state students about student loans

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Student leaders from six different Tri-state colleges took part in a conference call with President Barack Obama Monday to talk about the costs of interest rates on student loans. The student government representatives were among students from a number of cities across the country who listened in and where able to ask questions of the President's staff.

The conference call was hosted by Mayor Mallory in his City Hall office. The call focused on the upcoming July 1 deadline when new subsidized loans are scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent if legislators do not take action.

According to Mallory's office, the increase would cost borrowers in Ohio an additional $956 per student over the life of their loan. They say 379,657 Ohio students have a total of 441,596 student loans for a total value of $3,883 per student loan. They also pointed out that for the first time Americans owe more in student loans than in credit card debt.

Schools represented include the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Cincinnati State, Mt. Saint Joseph, Miami University and Northern Kentucky University.

In all, seven students took part in the call which was closed to the media.

Following the conference call, Mayor Mallory spoke to members of the press along with the student representatives.

"The reason this is a big concern for students is we want people to go to college, we want people to get an education and at the end of the day if the costs keep going up that becomes less and less possible for more people," Lane Hart of the University of Cincinnati said.

For some students, the conference call rose above the political fight going on in the trenches of Congress on how to fund the lower rate.

"This should not be a political issue at all," argued Xavier student Seth Walsh. "This should be a no-brainer. If you guys want to fight about politics or whatever don't bring it to the colleges because that's the future. That was what most concerned me and I'm really glad to see the president and Mayor Mallory didn't make this a political issue at all."

Not everyone agreed, however.

"We're using students' financial concerns and financial needs to put pressure on Congress," Miami graduate Tyler Sinclair said. "Well, I think that's absurd."

Sinclair felt President Obama was using the call to get students to act on his own agenda.

"When you look at some of the coded language that was used in that phone call, it's an agenda that's really out to characterize Congress as a "do nothing" Congress which is not true," Sinclair argued.

At the same time, Sinclair says he recognized the rarity of the opportunity he was given to sit in on the discussion, even if he disagrees.

"He's the president of the United States; you respect the office, and you have respect for the person who was able to obtain that office," Sinclair said. "Now I disagree with his policies and his politics, I think they are misguided and misdirected."

Mallory, however, supports Obama's efforts and argues legislators cannot cut their way to prosperity, but must instead invest in the country's future.

"This is not about politics for me," Mayor Mallory argued. "One of the students said it's important for Democrats and Republicans to work together on this issue to find some point of compromise, figure out how it gets paid for, but the bottom line is this is not the time for interest rates on student loans to double."

Mallory argued President Obama was not campaigning for a future job by hosting the call but simply fulfilling his current one.

"The president is still required to lead, even in an election year, and that's what he's doing," Mallory said.

White House representatives also urged students to take to Twitter using #dontdoublemyrates in an attempt to reach out to Senate members preparing to vote on the issue Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 WXIX. All rights reserved.