U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor addressed the possible rise in student loan interest rates at the SPC Midtown Center Monday. On July 1, the interest rate on Stafford student loans is scheduled to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, affecting a half million students throughout Florida who will have to pay more to attend college, Castor said.
“That is just completely untenable at this day and age,” she said. “We need to make a college education more and affordable and not less affordable.”
From left: Melissa Depasquale, 25, a finance and political science major at the University of South Florida; U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor; Mark Lombardi Nelson, 19, an entrepreneurship and finance major and President of the Student Government Association at USF St. Petersburg; Danita Randolph, 18, a nursing major and Secretary of the Student Government Association at SPC Downtown/Midtown; and John Pecora, President of the SGA at SPC Downtown/SPC Midtown.
Castor told the group at Midtown that she is co-sponsoring a bill she is hopeful will make a difference in the lives of many students whose college educations are made possible with student loans. Students like John Pecora and Mark Nelson, who are SPC sophomores, have growing concerns about what the increase will mean for their futures.
“When I committed to this education, it was going to give me a new career path,” said Pecora, an SPC student majoring in Education. “I understood that the loan rate was 3.4 and now I find out that two years into it, it could double.”
The thought of a hike in student loans during a time where employment is down and many families are just making ends meet is horrendous, Castor said. University of South Florida St. Petersburg Student Government President Mark Nelson is a first generation college student. Coming from a large family — his mother never finished high school and his father also dropped out but later obtained a GED – Nelson views completing his education as an obligation, not just to himself, but to his family.
“Going to college is basically putting the family on my back, really saving them, being able to put us in the future to make sure that we can sustain ourselves,” said Nelson, who attends USF on a scholarship, but has also needed to take out student loans to continue his eduation.
As both a student and a representative for his peers, Nelson finds it important that loan rates remain unchanged.
“The 3.4 percent is low enough to where it’s fair, if it’s doubled, people will be hurt including me,” Nelson said. “They can’t do it, we can’t pay, we really can’t.”
Because of the severe impact the student loan interest rate increase will have on students and families, Castor is doing what she can to maintain the status quo.
“Unless the Congress acts, then they (students) are going to be subject to at least a $1,000 increase in the cost of attending college,” Castor said.
The pressing issue of student loan debt, which tops $867 billion, has been a hot topic in the news, including National Public Radio, the Baltimore Sun and the Seattle Times.
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