Once the thrill of being accepted into a graduate program wears off, the reality of how to finance graduate school sets in. Right now we have an opportunity to make our voices heard and cut unnecessary costs quite a bit.
What’s the issue? For nearly 50 years, both undergraduate and graduate students were eligible for the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Program with the goal of making all levels of post-secondary education accessible to students with financial need. In 2012, however, changes in the Budget Control Act eliminated eligibility for graduate students. In other words, graduate student borrowers could no longer get subsidized loans, like Stafford loans. As a student taking out these loans, your interest is now accruing from day 1.
This change has increased the cost of borrowing significantly and may be putting graduate study out of reach for many students with financial need, especially underrepresented groups. We’ve reported elsewhere on our latest data about psychology graduate student debt. As a result of increased costs, 75% of graduates delay saving for the future, 67% delay saving for retirement, and 57% delay purchasing a home (Stamm et al, 2015). Similarly, graduates may delay starting small businesses like independent practices as a result of their debt burdens. (Additional background is here.)
At the same time, the United States faces numerous health shortages and research voids, and so our choice is often to meet these national needs is to attend graduate school, despite the costs.
What’s our opportunity to act? In December 2015, Representative Judy Chu, Democrat from the 27th District of California, introduced legislation that would restore the eligibility of graduate students for the Federal Direct Subsidized Loan Program.
Representative Chu’s legislation would amend the Higher Education Act to restore the eligibility of graduate students to the Subsidized Loan Program, and lessen the significant debt burden that many students incur while pursuing advanced degrees.
APA is calling upon graduate students, educators, psychologists, and supporters to take immediate action.
What can I do?
- Click here to tell Congress to support graduate students by asking your representative to cosponsor H.R. 4223.
- Fill out your contact information and our system will generate an email to your Representative today, asking them to cosponsor H.R. 4223, “the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act,” (POST GRAD Act).
- Add a personal note or story to the letter. If you need to overcome writer’s block, read this veteran’s story about his advocacy for bringing back the subsidy.
- When you’re done, post about your advocacy efforts on social media and share the link to this blog post with at least five people.
This legislation is an important step toward ensuring students have access to graduate level study, so take action now! Send a message to your Representative and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 4223.
Editor’s note: APAGS is extremely grateful to the Education Advocacy Team at APA for their efforts in getting this bill on Congress’s radar, drafting our support language, and mobilizing people in person and electronically. Now it’s your turn!