Federal student loans could increase by summer

The clock is ticking on a 2007 law that has kept student loan interest rates low. That law for federally subsidized Stafford loans will expire this summer.

Laterika Peak is a junior Communications major at Columbus State University. Because of financial hardship, she's taken out students loans to pay for her college education. And already she's come up with a plan to pay that money back.

"I'm going to start my payments early actually. I've already calculated it, it will be $272 a month that will take the place of my car payment so I will be done within five years."

But if Congress doesn't act soon, those five years may turn into 10 or more for students like Laterika.  

A measure put in place back in 2007 brought subsidized Stafford loans to 3.4 percent interest. In July that measure will expire and interest rates would double, up to 6.8 percent. 

"People already can't really pay them now so increasing them will only put our economy into more debt and people will still continue to file bankruptcy." 

CSU Dean David Lanoue says student loan interest rates have been an ongoing battle in Congress and the 2012 presidential race. 

"President Obama has already come out saying that he wants the rates to stay the same now. Mitt Romney is saying the same thing so you do have agreement now between Democrats and Republicans."

Which Lanoue says sets the stage for a fair outcome with student loan rates. If a resolution is not reached by the July 1 deadline, then students borrowing the maximum $23,000 at 6.8 percent could stand to pay an extra $5,00 over a 10 year repayment period bringing their total to $28,000. 

"That's crazy. Once you do that I don't know how you are going to pay that off especially trying to find a job in our economy now,  says Winston Johnson, a CSU freshman, says scholarships aren't enough, so he has to take more loans out for the next school year.

"You know they raised the standards for hope so you trying to keep that and maintain your grades and what not," Johnson said.  

"My best advice to students would be only taking out those loans you absolutely need to live your life while you go through school," Lanoue said.  

Congress says it would cost the federal government nearly $6 billion to extend the lower interest rate of 3.4 percent.

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