NORTH MANKATO — Now that spring has set in, financial aid forms are being filled out for fall-semester starts, and students are starting to get budgets together to prepare for their expensive post-secondary careers.
But there’s an added cost that area financial aid experts are warning students about that will affect the amount of student loan debt they’ll end up with after college.
Incoming college freshmen could end up paying $5,000 more for student loans if Congress doesn’t stop interest rates from doubling. Mandatory federal budget cuts are taking place, making a deal to avert a doubling of interest rates much more elusive before a July 1 deadline.
The change would be from 3.4 percent interest to 6.8 percent. That rate hike only hits students taking out new subsidized loans. Students with outstanding subsidized loans are not expected to see their loan rates increase unless they take out a new subsidized Stafford loan. (Students’ non-subsidized loans are not expected to change, nor are loans taken from commercial lenders.)
Like many financial aid officials across the country, Jayne Dinse, financial aid director at South Central College, said they’re doing their best to inform students about the interest rate hike and what that will mean for paying off student loans.
Dinse said SCC has seen an increase the past few years in student-loan borrowing as tuition costs have increased and financial-aid funding hasn’t kept pace. The average amount borrowed now by SCC students is $12,650.
“We are informing students that the rate of interest on new subsidized loans will increase, and we are encouraging them to borrow only what they need,” Dinse said.
That sentiment was echoed in a Free Press story last fall about the rising student-debt load at Minnesota State University. Sandra Loerts, MSU director of financial aid, said there aren’t hidden programs students can be made aware of in lieu of loans.