• Fate of student loans hangs in the balance
    April 01,2013
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    Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo

    Longtime Rutland Town election official Dick Lloyd looks out the Rutland Town Elementary School window waiting for voters during a special school budget vote Tuesday. Voters defeated the school budget for the second time.
    Should the U.S. government make a profit from student loans, and if so, how much?

    That was the underlying question posed during a Thursday morning round-table discussion between U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and a 10-member student panel at the Community College of Vermont campus in Rutland.

    Welch voiced his opposition to increasing interest rates for the Stafford Loan, a federal loan named after Robert Stafford, who represented Vermont in the U.S. Congress as both a senator and representative and also held the post of governor of the state.

    Currently, an undergraduate student who takes out a Stafford Loan will pay an interest rate of 3.4 percent. Come July 1, however, that rate is going to double to 6.8 percent, unless Congress takes action.

    Students faced the same dilemma this time last year before Congress passed a bill keeping the interest rate at 3.4 percent, but only for one year. However, as the political jihadists in Washington continue their kamikaze mission of sequestration, one must wonder how if any compromise will happen, even on an issue that will affect students and families regardless of political leanings.

    “There’s an air of unreality going on in Washington as we lurch from one crisis to another,” Welch told the students. “One hundred percent of Congress is against (sequestration) and it went into effect. It makes you scratch your head.”

    It’s pretty hard to defend the doubling of student loan rates, so hard that nobody is doing it. But, this is going to happen simply through the inaction of Congress. They don’t have to vote to raise interest rates. They just have to do nothing.

    Welch raised an interesting notion. Is the 3.4 percent rate too high as it is?

    “The U.S. government borrows money at between 1 and 2 percent,” he said. “Why the government will charge above-market interest rates to people who are the future of this country is something nobody can defend.”

    CCV student Liam Edwards took a utopian view when he asked Welch, “Why are we forced to pay for an education when it’s something you can’t put a price on?”

    The idea of free education for all sounds wonderful, much the same way that it sounds wonderful to some people when they tell me all of the Rutland Herald’s content should be completely free. But, we all need to eat, professors and reporters alike, so instead of free education, how about settling for an affordable one?

    Democracy inaction

    Rutland Town voters took to the polls Tuesday to defeat the school budget for a second time. Or, rather, a small handful of people made the decision for everyone else. There are 2,735 registered voters in Rutland Town, and Tuesday night’s voting results came in with 255 people voting no and 229 voting yes. So, 484 residents cast ballots, or about 17.7 percent of voters, with 8.3 percent voting yes and 9.3 percent voting no.

    All it took was less than 10 percent of registered voters to defeat the budget.

    Folks, regardless of which side of the fence you’re on — and those sides appear to be “better education” versus “lower taxes” — a 17.7 percent turnout to decide on an $8 million budget is pretty pathetic. Or maybe apathetic. No, I’m going with pathetic. The school budget is the largest amount of money you’ll be voting on until next year, when you vote on the school budget again. So, if you’re a fiscal conservative who says no to everything or a parent of one of the several hundred pupils at Rutland Town School, you’ll have a third chance to vote on the school budget. The polls are open for 12 hours and state law requires your employer to allow you to exercise your right to vote, so, no excuses next time, OK?

    Go Eagles!

    No, I’m not talking about my beloved Arlington Eagles, but about Colby McKay, an eighth-grader at Otter Valley Union High School who is holding a blood drive to meet the community service requirements to become an Eagle Scout.

    The blood drive, to benefit the American Red Cross, will be held from 12:30 to 5 p.m. April 16 at Lothrop Elementary School. Thanks to Omya, which is sponsoring the event. You can make an appointment to donate by calling (800) RED CROSS or just walk in. Be generous. Give until it hurts, and then give just a little bit more.

    Calling college-bound Tinmouth residents

    I’m not sure how much competition there will be for this, Tinmouth being a small town, but the Tinmouth Community Fund is taking applications for its scholarship program. Scholarships will be awarded to Tinmouth residents based on a combination of potential, merit and financial need. Applicants must be high school graduates or equivalent who are pursuing further education either in college, a trade school or another learning opportunity. This scholarship is no longer limited to freshman applicants. Applications are available on the town website, tinmouthvt.org, and are due May 15. Scholarships will be awarded in June. Email your completed application to eworks@vermontel.net or mail a hard copy to the Tinmouth Community Scholarship, 143 Channel Road, Tinmouth, VT. 05773.


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