College students face Stafford loan interest rate jump

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

Rosa Harper says she’ll have to find another way to pay the three semesters she has left at Eastern New Mexico University.

The senior from Lubbock said the jump in the interest rate for the subsidized Stafford loan she normally uses to pay for school is just too much and she isn’t looking forward to adding more debt to the $24,000 she has already borrowed.

Harper isn’t alone; more than 3,000 students at ENMU and millions across the nation receive the federal loan. The interest rate doubled from 3.4 to 6.8 percent Monday after Congress failed to take action to prevent the scheduled change.

“That’s a lot, I was thinking about taking out one just to help pay for school but I am rethinking (payment) methods,” Harper said. “I have no parental help, I depend upon myself. I make the choices whether or not to take out loans.”

According to the ENMU financial aid office, the rate change was scheduled to go into effect last year but Congress voted to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate for another year.

U.S. rep. Ben Lujan, D-N.M., expressed his disappointment about Congress’ lack of action.

“As of today, the interest rates on all new federal student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a college education for millions of young adults,” Lujan said. “It is deeply disappointing that Congress has yet to find a solution to this problem that makes college more affordable and does not make it harder for New Mexico’s students and their families to pay for college.”

But Lujan says it’s not too late for Congress to halt the change from happening.

“When Congress returns to session next week, retroactively reducing interest rates and implementing a solution that makes college more affordable for New Mexico’s students must be a top priority,” Lujan said.

Justin Aguilar, ENMU’s student body president, said he recommends his fellow students only borrow what is necessary now that rates have doubled.

“You don’t want to take out loans unless you have to,” Aguilar said. “I wasn’t really educated about loans. It’s an educational thing and I highly encourage students borrow them on an emergency basis.”

Aguilar says he knows it’s hard for students to find other ways to pay for school, especially when other financial aid funds aren’t available, but he doesn’t feel this will affect ENMU’s enrollment numbers, which have been booming over the last couple of semesters.

“For us, I would think that would help enrollment because we have our low tuition, it will be good for cheaper schools in general,” Aguilar said.

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