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Ron Barber talks student debt

Rep. Ron Barber stresses solutions to the student loan debt crisis, hoping to lower the interest cap

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Courtesy of Ron Barber
Ron Barber

Demoratic Rep. Ron Barber is running for re-election this November, and with the student loan debt crisis affecting voters in Pima County, he has been vocal about pushing for a solution by combatting loan defaults and prioritizing education.

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According to the Project on Student Debt, 49 percent of 2012 UA graduates were left with student loan debt.

In Barber’s first term, he voted for a bipartisan bill to bring down loan rates. He said it was a step in the right direction but also said the state needs a long-term solution to protect students from high interest rates.

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Barber said he feels personally connected to the student loan debt crisis at the UA, because he attended the university, as did both of his daughters. One of his daughters, Crissi Blake, came out of college with a degree in nursing and student loan debt that needed attention.

According to Barber, student loan debt affects all three stages of higher education: getting into college in the first place, being able to afford it and what happens post-graduation.

Barber said he recognizes that getting into college can be intimidating and realizes tuition costs at the UA have doubled over the decade.

He said that as Pell Grants and other educational funding increases, solutions to student debt become more achievable. Barber said he also fears that the solution can not come purely out of the federal government.

“I am going to do my part,” Barber said, “but we have to have some help at the state [level].”

The high cost of student loan debt can lead to defaulting. According to College Factual, 5,157 UA students entered loan repayment in 2009, and 6.8 percent of them ended up defaulting within three years. Barber said he plans to combat loan defaulting by working at the start of the problem and making loans less expensive.

“We have to put education at the top of our list of priorities,” Barber said.

Barber also stressed the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics research to create growth in the marketplace and strengthen Arizona’s ability to compete in the global economy. Barber is a member of the STEM Education Caucus and said the state “can’t start too early” with STEM education; Barber said he hopes to see STEM courses incorporated in K-12 education.

Barber said he believes that he and his opponent, Republican Martha McSally, “disagree 100 percent on federal involvement with student loans.”

Barber said if he continues as a member of Congress, he will continue to pursue keeping and lowering a cap on student loan interest rates, which currently range from 4.66 percent to 7.21 percent.

“I am going to vote for bills that make sense for the people I am representing,” Barber said, “and that includes students.”

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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/8)
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Updated December 8, 2021