(Source: Laura Figueroa Newsday, Melville, N.Y. (MCT) — With interest rates on Stafford student loans set to double in July, Sen. Charles Schumer joined the growing chorus of Democratic leaders nationwide pushing for legislation to block the increase.
Alongside local college students at his Manhattan office Sunday, Schumer (D-N.Y.) pressed Congress to pass a measure that would keep interest rates on Stafford loans from going up from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent starting July 1.
The federally subsidized loans currently provide low- interest financing to more than 8 million students nationwide — about 60,000 of those from Long Island, according to figures provided by Schumer’s office.
“The prospect of raising student loan interest rates is like nails on a chalkboard for New York‘s college students,” Schumer said, noting that interest rates for a car loan are lower than the 6.8 percent rate.
If the Stafford interest rates were to double, the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation, the state agency overseeing student aid, calculates the average student would pay up to $3,800 more over the course of a 10-year repayment period.
Stony Brook University student Tom Kirnbauer, 20, who spoke at Schumer’s news conference, said the increase would put a strain on students like him who are forced to take out loans to finance their education, and who pay for out-of-pocket costs like gas to commute to campus that are not included in tuition estimates.
“As students we’re already seeing a lot of fees and costs go up,” said Kirnbauer, of Smithtown, who serves as treasurer of Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government. “Quite frankly, to increase the interest rates would be unfair.”
The current interest rate was a product of 2007 legislation that gradually cut Stafford loan rates each year by more than 1 percent through July 2012.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) has filed a bill that would maintain the current rate for at least a year, but Schumer said he’d eventually like to see Congress take up legislation that would make the extension permanent.
A companion bill filed in the House by Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat of Connecticut, has met resistance from some key Republican House leaders like Rep. John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who heads the House Committee on Education and Workforce. Kline, in a statement, said he opposes the measure because of the cost involved with sustaining the lower rate.
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