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NYPIRG advocates to reduce interest rates on student loans

Syracuse University students and the university’s chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group are working to halt legislation that would nearly double student loan interest rates.

Interest rates on federal Stafford loans are set to increase July 1. The current interest rate of 3.4 percent is set to double to 6.8 percent.

If the interest rate increases, students who borrow the maximum amount of subsidized loans, $23,000, will pay an additional $5,000 in interest during a 10-year period and an additional $11,000 during a 20-year period, according to an April 23 NYPIRG press release.

NYPIRG officials are working to raise awareness of the issue among students and speak with legislators, urging them to create legislation to halt the increase. If the College Cost Reduction and Access Act is not extended and interest rates increase, 8 million people will be affected, according to the release.

‘What NYPIRG has been doing is working with all sorts of coalitions of people who are interested and concerned about these issues and kind of working on an all-out tactic campaign seeking to avert this from happening and eventually block the interest rates from going up,’ said Ted Traver, NYPIRG project coordinator for SU and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Traver said NYPIRG is working to make students aware of the issue and encouraging them to do something about it. Students have been provided with call-in sheets and encouraged to makes calls on the issue themselves, he said.

Those involved have made numerous phone calls to legislators such as Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer, Traver said. Schumer visited SU April 16 and announced his support for a bill to halt the increases.

NYPIRG officials advocated to students in the Schine Student Center on Thursday. Beneath a poster with the words ‘Deflate my Rate,’ students were asked to blow up a balloon and write the amount of money they had already taken out in student loans, Traver said.

‘With something like this, awareness is one of the most important things,’ he said. ‘Some issues we work on, awareness isn’t enough because you have to convince people to act, but it’s pretty easy to get people to act about their own money.’

About a decade ago, approximately one-third of college students took out loans. Today, about two-thirds of students take out loans. In the past decade, students averaged $25,000 of debt, Traver said.

NYPIRG is an organization that is involved with higher education, typically on a state level, and advocates for financial and tuition assistance for the SUNY and City University of New York systems, and private universities like SU, Traver said.

Mikala Stubley, a sophomore geography major and intern for NYPIRG, said this is an issue she’s passionate about and that will affect a significant number of SU students.

‘Students are in enough debt anyway without the hike, so it’s just something we’re trying to raise awareness about and discourse about,’ she said.

Stubley was surprised by the number of students unaware of the potential interest rate increases. She said she felt NYPIRG’s tabling was successful because members were able to educate at least a few people on the issue.

Said Stubley: ‘Anytime you reach out to one person and get them more informed about the issue, I think that’s a win.’

cffabris@syr.edu 

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