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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Giffords discusses loans, immigration”

    In a sit-down interview with the Arizona Daily Wildcat Saturday, newly elected Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords explained her views on immigration, university admission and a recent bill that could cut the interest rate of student loans in half by 2011.

    Student loans

    The bill, HR 5, which has already been passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, calls for interest-rate cuts on subsidized student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent within the next four years.

    “”Republicans and Democrats alike understand the importance that any child that grows up or wants to go to college in the U.S.A. should have the ability to do so,”” Giffords said. “”It’s important to address from a federal standpoint where interest is getting to over 8 percent.””

    If passed, the bill would save the average borrower, with about $13,800 in loan debt, approximately $4,400, according to the bill’s provisions.

    “”Right now, the interest rate is far too high for a student to be able to pay off easily because you are just graduating and starting your career,”” Giffords said.

    Serena Unrein, executive director of the Arizona Students’ Association, said she thinks the bill will benefit a large number of Arizona students.

    “”Anything that Congress does to make college affordability a priority is a good thing,”” Unrein said.

    Luke Swarthout, associate director of the State Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) Higher Education Project, which has been working closely with the bill, said it has the potential to help millions of students.

    “”The bill will cut interest rates on one set of student loans that affect 5 million students each year,”” Swarthout said. “”(It) is a signal that this is an issue that matters to this Congress.””

    Preparing students for the future

    In addition to focusing on student loans, Giffords said she is a part of a committee that will address the ability of the United States to compete globally, which is dependent on individuals graduating from college with degrees in engineering, science and mathematics.

    “”During the 1960s, we had Apollo – it propelled our country and was so visionary in going to the moon,”” Giffords said. “”I think we need to have a new mission that inspires young kids to get involved, and I think it will be in the issue of energy.””

    Giffords said she will be contacting various researchers, professors and students familiar with energy issues to search for alternative sources that could decrease America’s dependency on foreign oil.

    When asked about Proposition 300, which requires students who are not legal U.S. citizens to pay out-of-state tuition, Giffords said providing opportunities to youth is essential, including university access for non-residents.

    “”Obviously, the U.S. can’t afford to educate everyone, but a lot of times kids get trapped,”” Giffords said. “”For example, if a person comes here as a kid, they grow up here. They aren’t citizens, but this is the only place that they know. To not provide them an opportunity to go to college is really tragic.””

    Making a difference

    For students who aspire to represent their community or state in the legislature, Giffords gave a few words of advice.

    “”The most important thing is to become accomplished in a certain area,”” Giffords said. “”I believe it’s beneficial to have a background in another area, other than politics. I ran my family’s tire business before I ever ran for office.””

    More importantly, students need to understand that they have the ability to make a difference in this country, Giffords said.

    “”This is your government,”” she said. “”If you don’t like the direction of the country, then you have to change it.””

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