Student loan interest rates decrease

Dennis Marshall

Going forward undergraduates will receive a 3.9 percent interest rate on their federally subsidized Stafford loans, down from the 6.8 percent rate that took effect when Congress failed to meet a July 1 deadline.

Senior history major James Wethington took out a student loan for the first time this semester. He said he would have accepted the loan whether the interest rate was 3.4 or 6.8 percent.

“I would have had to because I have no other way of paying for school,” Wethington said. “With it being my last year, I had to take it or else I couldn’t finish school.”

He said he thinks legislators could do more to help today’s average college student.

“They just need to get their act together. I don’t want to get in more debt than I have to.” Wethington said. “I think they could do more in the sense of trying to hear us out and see what help we need. With college getting more and more expensive, it’s getting harder for people to pay for school, except for taking out loans and being thousands of dollars in debt.”

The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act allows graduate students to borrow at a 5.4 percent rate and parents to borrow at 6.4 percent.

Senior health administration major Riley Collins works at the USI Campus Store, where she helps students with college costs.

Collins said, like many other students, she couldn’t afford tuition without a student loan.

“No matter what, I would have had to take out a loan,” she said.

She was happy with the change.

“Hopefully, it means I can pay it off a lot faster,” Collins said.

She does not think students would realize the higher rates until they have graduated and have to pay their loans back, she said.

President Barack Obama praised Congress for designing “a sensible common sense approach to keeping student interest rates at a reasonable level” after signing The Act of 2013 Aug. 9.

The bill was not passed easily, though. Interest rates doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent because an agreement could not be reached by the July 1 deadline.

The congressional budget office estimated the bill would reduce the deficit by $715 million over the next decade.

According to CBS analyst Mellody Hobson, someone with student loan is 36 percent less likely to own a home.

Rates will fluctuate with the 10-year U.S. Treasury Bill.

“There were a lot of lawmakers putting proposals on the table and some of them didn’t make any sense at all,” said Mary Harper, USI financial aid director.

Harper said other proposals made sense but a major component the bills failed to recognize was a cap on how high an interest rate could rise, which is 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent for graduate students and 10.5 percent for parents.

“Most of the proposals left that little piece out,” Harper said. “So the Democrats and the Republicans couldn’t come together and agree before the July 1 deadline on what kind of action they were going to take.”