Students React to Loan Interest Rates Doubling

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AKRON-- Interest rates on unsecured federal student loans doubled from 3.4% to 6.8% on Monday after Congress took a 4th of July break without the Senate voting on a related bill that would keep them lower.

The news concerned many students at the University of Akron, where roughly 75% of the students receive some kind of federal aid to pay for their education.

"I really have to look at the reflection at the end of the tunnel because the debt that I am going to accumulate over the years, it's astronomical," said Cody Moore, a nursing student.

"It scares me because that means I am going to have to pay double what I am already paying after I graduate and I haven't started paying my loans back yet; so the price is going to be way higher," said Kayla Puz, who is in between her junior and senior year.

By one calculation, the increased interest rate could cost the average student as much as $2,600 more.

Congressman Jim Renacci of Wadsworth said he voted for the bill, which he said ties student loans to market rates and has measures that protect the most vulnerable, before it stalled in the Senate.

"We are all back on Monday next week and at that time the Senate can act," Renacci told FOX 8 News on Monday.

"They can take our bill, hopefully make it retroactive to July first. We'd be willing to work with them on that and hopefully we can have a solution early next week," said Renacci.

In the meantime, students who rely on federal loans are already trying to calculate what it will cost them when they have to pay them back.

They include Leslie Bell, who is working on his second graduate degree; owes more than $138,000  in student loans; and said he has not been able to find a job.

"It's brutal on and on and on because I want to be working full time. I have been applying for two and a half years, over 450 job applications later, still no offer and I do feel the politicians in washington have to do something about the student loan mess doubling to 6.8%."

At the Office of Student Financial Aid, Michelle Ellis, the executive director, said calculating the cost should not scare people away from a college education.

"It's still an investment in their future; so for students who have to borrow student loans, they shouldn't let the fact that a loan, although it's a huge responsibility, deter them from getting a college education," said Ellis.

But Ellis said students should also do the work to explore other avenues of financing their education such as grants or the many private and public scholarships that are available.

"They should be borrowing wisely; they should only borrow what they need; they should be on a budget; they should be planning what it's going to cost them, when those loans go into repayment," said Ellis.

Renacci seems optimistic that the increase will only be short-lived.

"I think this still can be fixed. It can go back to july first and be fixed if possible and the Senate really needs to take a look at this so we can make sure those students going forward have a market-based rate that's competitive and also helps them get an education."