More than 130,000 letters from college students were hand-delivered to Congress Tuesday, urging lawmakers to not allow the rate of student loans to double when Democrat-supported legislation from 2007 expires this summer. Congress says the nation cannot afford to keep the rates low. Democrats say it can’t afford not to.
Lower rates expire unless Congress acts
The current 3.4 percent rate on federally subsidized Stafford loans will go up to 6.8 percent if Congress does not act to stop it. Stafford loans are extended to low- to middle-income students. In 2007, the Democrat-controlled Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act to progressively lower student loan rates from 6.8 percent to the current rate of 3.4 percent. But that legislation is set to expire on July 1. If Congress does not act soon, the rate will revert to its former 6.8 percent rate.
Debt hinders chance at success
Tyler Dowden, an 18-year-old student at Northern Arizona University who spoke in Washington Tuesday , said the burden of debt will impact his chance at success:
“I don’t feel that I can be successful with this overwhelming debt strangling me. I can’t really breathe because whenever I look around, whenever I look at my future or try to make goals for my future, I really can’t. I have to take my massive debt into consideration.”
Dowden expects to graduate with $25,000 worth of debt at the current loan rate. If the rate increases, he estimates the amount will be more like $28,500.
Samantha Durdock, 19, a political student at the University of Maryland, says she will likely have to put off graduate school if the rate goes up. Currently, she already owes about $20,000 for student loans.
“Right now, if the loans stay how it is, it’s going to be tight, but I could make it doing five years straight in school. But with the increase, I’d probably have to take off.”
President urges Congress to act
President Obama has been urging Congress to not let the rates rise. Affordable eduction, he argues, is necessary if we wish to have an informed, capable work force in the future.
GOP says the move is too expensive
Congressional Republicans, however, say that the cost of keeping the rates low is too much of financial burden on the nation. Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) called the 2007 legislation “a ticking time bomb,” and that continuing the policy is a “disservice to students and taxpayers.”
Kline’s spokesperson, Jennifer Allen added:
“We must either allow interest rates to rise on student loans, or stick taxpayers with another multi-billion dollar bill.”
Kline estimates that keeping the rates low costs taxpayers $6 billion a year. Democrats say that estimate is too high.
Dems say rates unfair
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) — who has introduced a bill to extend the lower rate — said Tuesday that it is wrong to expect students to pay higher rates for their loans than banks charge homeowners for their mortgages. Courtney acknowledged, however, that, although he feels it is right to keep the rates low, convincing Congress of that before July will be an uphill challenge.