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The Daily Ardmoreite
  • College education harder to afford after rate hike

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  • Area college students and their parents are nervous, as paying for college with a loan became more expensive Monday.
    Subsidized Stafford loans, which account for roughly a quarter of all direct federal borrowing, went from 3.4 percent interest to 6.8 percent interest. Congress' Joint Economic Committee estimated the cost passed to students would be about $2,600.
    Patty Crabtree, Ardmore, has a daughter who will be an Oklahoma State University senior in the fall. While scholarships have paid for undergraduate study, loans are being considered for veterinary school.
    "It makes me nervous," Crabtree said. "You just hate to see your kid get so far in debt."
    The new interest rate applies to loans taken out after Monday.
    Students only borrow money for one year at a time, so students who have loans from their previous schooling that fall under the lower rate will now need to reconsider their future loans that will fall under the higher rate.
    "It's going to increase debt, because students have to have it," said Deborah Godwin, Educational Opportunities Center advisor at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma.
    While EOC advisors work to find other means of financial assistance for students, sometimes loans are unavoidable. This increase occurs as student loan debt has already surpassed credit card debt in the U.S.
    "It's setting students up for failure and higher loans," said EOC advisor Kirk Rushing. "We're piling debt on top of debt when student loan debt is already the highest debt in the country."
    Lawmakers knew for a full year the July 1 deadline was coming, but were unable to strike a deal to dodge that increase. During last year's presidential race, both parties pledged to extend the 3.4 percent interest rates for another year to avoid angering young voters.
    But the looming hike lacked sufficient urgency this year, and Congress left town for the holiday without an agreement. Instead, the Democratic-led Senate pledged to revisit the issue as soon as July 10 and retroactively restore the rates for another year — into 2014, when a third of Senate seats and all House seats are up for election.
    "This is why college students should vote. It affects them," Godwin said.
    For months, the student loan issue was the subject of partisan sniping — sometimes within the same party.
    Obama's budget proposal included a measure that would have linked student loan interest rates with the financial markets. Fellow Democrats called that unacceptable, because there were no guarantees interest rates would not skyrocket if the economy improves.
    The Republican-led House, meanwhile, co-opted the president's proposal and passed a bill in May that linked interest rates to the financial markets, but with a cap on how high rates could climb.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Democratic-led Senate, meanwhile, tried for a two-year extension that failed to overcome a procedural hurdle. A Republican measure, similarly, came up short.
    Top White House officials told allies to find any deal that could win enough votes and avert the politically and fiscally costly doubling.
    An attempt at a bipartisan agreement fizzled last week when the Democratic chairman of the Senate education panel, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, declared it a non-starter, and urged lawmakers to extend the rates for one more year — when they get back next week.
    The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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