On the heels of a six percent tuition increase and 1.7 percent increase in student fees, Salt Lake Community College students are about to face another cost increase.
Interest rates on subsidized Stafford Loans are set to double on July 1, 2013 if congress does not act to keep them at the current 3.4 percent. H.R. 1433 has been introduced to the House of Representatives to prevent the increase to 6.8 percent, but there has been little movement.
“We have got to make sure that, with the rising costs of college, we do what we can to make it more affordable,” said Congressman Jim Matheson. “This is not the time for interest rates to increase [on student loans].”
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the average student debt for students in Utah is between $20,000 and $22,000. Federal limits for subsidized Stafford loans are set at $23,000.
Student loan rates were original set in 2007 for five years with the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Last year, those rates were extended for one year with what Matheson called “strong bipartisan support”.
“When I heard about the bill, I asked to sign on as a cosponsor. It’s just something I really felt strongly about,” said Matheson, who is one of 87 cosponsors.
According to Matheson, there is still time for Congress to act because current rates are in place until June 30.
Only loans made after July 1, 2013 will be affected by the interest increase if the bill does not pass
Matheson encourages students to contact their representatives to help this bill move forward. He said that it helps lawmakers to understand the impact of a bill when a real life story about the issue is attached to it.
SLCC student body president Aaron Starks said that it is up to the students to make a difference at the state and federal levels if they want to ensure lower tuition, fees and interest rates on student loans.
“They need to get involved and be more proactive at the voting booths,” said Starks. “If students want lower tuition, they’re going to have to raise their voices.”
SLCC student government tries to help students with political involvement through activities such as inviting government leaders to the college, participating in Higher Education day at the state capitol and getting students to register to vote. This past year, 1700 students were registered at SLCC.
“The power is with the students,” said Starks. They just need to come together to exercise it.