Student Loan Interest Rate Doubled, and the Media Didn't Care


Our procrastinators-in-charge in Congress did nothing to stop the student loan interest rate from doubling this week to 6.8%.  More troubling was the fact that none of the major news networks gave the student-loan crisis and the increasing interest rates any significant coverage.

Just like Congress, traditional news media does not find millennials to be a worthy enough constituent cohort. 

Media Matters analyzed the news coverage of Sunday and evening news show transcripts from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and network broadcast news from May 23 through June 30 and found only 13 brief segments dedicated to student debt. Even prominent progressive journalists like Rachel Maddow did not address the interest hike this week, as this list of references for her July 1 show reveals.

This is not the case online.

News websites have compiled extensive, in-depth research and analysis on the issue, including interactive graphics and visualizations such as this one from USA Today that compiles data from U. S. Census Bureau, Monthly Labor Review, Project on Student Debt, Institute for College Access and Success, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog provides a full background on the student loan interest rate issue and its economic and policy impact breakdown, complete with charts and even a YouTube soundtrack featuring The Decemberists. 

The real congressional politicking regarding student interest rates may even be happening on Twitter instead of CSPAN. The hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate has drawn a back-and-forth between the Democrats and the GOP in the form of snarky memes and blame-shifting:


Even think tanks have covered the subject on their websites (and not as talking heads on cable and network news). The New America Foundation, a nonprofit nonpartisan public policy institute, released some alternatives to the student loan interest rates, including allowing the NSA to decide since "it's watching everyone anyway."

The gaping absence of student-loan coverage on network and cable news is clearly tied to the demographic makeup of the audiences. Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC's average viewer is aged 55 or older and is only 43% likely to have attended college according to television advertising information site National TV Spots. 

On the other hand, the internet is the domain of the millennial, which explains why the fight for student loans is likely to be won or lost in online campaigns as much as closed door deals.

Congress functions pretty much like college students who start their final term paper the night before and then complain about how the topic at hand is too hard. They are working off a logistical loophole that even though rates for student loans issued after July 1, 2013 have doubled, most students do not sign their loan documents until right before the fall semester. 

This gives Congress a few weeks to get its act together before students get saddled with even more debt than the $1 trillion that already exists. This also gives traditional news media another week to realize that millennials are going to cause their unemployment in the coming years if they don't start covering policy issues affecting them.