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U.S. Senate passes interest rate extension

Stafford Loan Rates
Deidre Whipple

Despite the short-term extension of low Stafford loan interest rates, Jen Sassman, the director of financial aid at Wartburg, is not satisfied.

“July 1, 2013 we are going to be in the same predicament that we were July 1, 2012,” Sassman said.

In July, the U.S. Senate passed an extension of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act to prevent an increase in interest for subsidized loans from 3.4 to 6.8 percent.

The lower interest rate will continue to benefit Wartburg students. According to a previous bill passed in 2006 states students will have a fixed interest rate after repayment begins. With the extension, all students signing for a loan this year will be assured a rate of 3.4 percent interest during repayment.

About 69 percent of Wartburg students signed for a Stafford loan last year. Sassman wants to make sure these students are aware of how this bill affects them.

“I know it’s confusing to students a lot of times and I invite students to come into our office and ask their questions,” Sassman said. “We want them to know what they’re signing up for and what this means for them and their future.”

Lauren Baskerville said she is worried about how she will pay back her loans, but not just because of the money.

“I just hope someone sends me something about when it’s due,” Baskerville said. “But I’m getting prepared.”

Baskerville was aware of the policy change in Stafford loans, but was thankful to hear that her federal loan interest would not be increasing. Baskerville and her parents have worked with private lenders and have used resources provided by Wartburg Financial Aid to get ready for her loan repayment.

Other students are more concerned with the changes in federal loans. Kate Tjeerdsma has also used the Stafford loan program to help pay for her education.

“I consider it an investment rather than a cost,” Tjeerdsma said.

She plans to continue studying in a graduate program, so Tjeerdsma is concerned that any further changes in policy may affect her future loans.

Both Sassman and Tjeerdsma agreed that the Stafford loan policies are something that need to be resolved.

“It would be beneficial if students let their voice be heard and advocate for aid programs. We advocate as a college, but they look at me as an administrator,” Sassman said. “I think if more students would tell their story, I think they would be heard more than myself. I think they’ll have a bigger impact.”

Because of the financial aid she has received during her time at Wartburg, Tjeerdsma would like to ensure similar loans for future students through petitions and letter writing campaigns.

To Sassman, these actions could influence future Senate decisions.

“They want to hear what is important to their constituents. They want to hear their concerns and I can do that on behalf of everybody,” Sassman said, “but I think hearing it from them would be more beneficial. Actually, the two of us together.”

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