Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 13, 2013

Unless Congress acts, student loan rate may double

BY ANNE STANTON astanton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Jamie Bowen said a looming interest hike on federal student loans isn’t just bad for students, it ultimately will hurt the country.

“I think it’s going to make going to college very hard for some people, and it’s already hard enough,” she said. “We’re the future of the country, especially with everyone aging out, baby boomers and everything.”

College students faced increasing uncertainty about the cost of new student loans after members of the U.S. Senate last week failed to advance partisan proposals to keep interest rates from doubling on July 1.

If lawmakers can’t find a rare bipartisan agreement, students are likely to face higher rates on new subsidized Stafford student loans this fall.

Although Bowen’s interest loan rates won’t be affected, she considered the news upsetting.

Bowen, 23, said students are already stressed by the high cost of attending college. She owes between $15,000 and $20,000 in student loans after attending Grand Valley State for one year, then opting for Northwestern Michigan College to save money. She’s now studying to take the board exams to become a registered nurse.

“I had the (state) Promise loan for a high ACT score and they took it away,” she said. “The state of Michigan didn’t have enough money. It’s weird to take money away from people who are trying to make themselves better.”

Bowen said the public perceives that NMC students don’t need to take out student loans, but it isn’t true. Making matters worse: nursing students may face a nearly 32 percent tuition increase this fall, if the rate is approved by the NMC board.

“You already pay tuition, and then you pay another $1,000 to be at the clinical sites and lab time here,” she said. “It’s a lot of money by the end of it.”

In fact, total fees for the associate degree nursing program range from $6,388 for an in-district student to $6,852 for out-of-state, according to the NMC website.

Dakota Deeren, 22, already borrowed more than $20,000, to get an associate’s degree, in part, because she chose not to work while attending college. She has a 2-year-old, and a job would have meant paying for day care and less focus on school work, she said.

“I can’t believe they’d put much so much pressure on us: go to school, get these great grades all for an amazing job out there … somewhere,” said Deeren, who wants to become a social worker. “We’re already going to school to pay off loans that will take until we die.”

Spencer Lumsden, 20, said an interest rate hike wouldn’t hurt him because he doesn’t intend to take out loans to pay for his NMC classes.

“I have a job and live with my parents,” said Lumsden, an accounting student. “I wanted to go to (Michigan State University), but I figured I’d stay here and save money. Philosophically, it will make people go to a community college rather than a big university. For people who want the college experience, it will change things for sure.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.