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A growing discord over student loans

Tonko, UAlbany students urge Congress to freeze rates for two years

University at Albany senior Kevin Fox on Monday, July 1, stresses the burden on students and families of federally subsidized Stafford loans facing an increased interest rate of 6.8 percent.

University at Albany senior Kevin Fox on Monday, July 1, stresses the burden on students and families of federally subsidized Stafford loans facing an increased interest rate of 6.8 percent. Photo by John Purcell.

— Fox added his sister was at the campus Monday, too, taking a tour of the college before entering in the fall. He said she turned down offers from Rochester Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to attend UAlbany.

More than 7 million students nationwide tap federal loans to pay for college, and around 66 percent of graduates hold federal loans, according to Tonko’s Office. The average amount of federal loans for a student totals around $26,600.

Stafford loans are offered in unsubsidized and subsidized forms, with a financial need only required for subsidized loans. The increased rate of 6.8 percent interest for subsidized loans now matches unsubsidized loans.

“Quality higher education should not be a luxury for a privileged few, who may not need those loans, but should be available to everyone,” Tonko said. “Everybody deserves that opportunity to stretch their intellectual power … to be able to contribute their talents, their skills, their passions to the development of a community.”

The average New York student with a subsidized Stafford loan borrowed around $3,800 this year. The legislation Tonko lauds claims to save such borrower an average of $1,000 over the course of the loan.

The U.S. Department of Education estimated the annual price for undergraduate tuition, room, and board for 2010-11 school year was $13,564 at public institutions, $36,252 at private not-for-profit institutions and $23,495 at private for-profit institutions. From the 2000-01 school year, this represents a 42 percent increase at public institutions and a 31 percent increase at private not-for-profit institutions.

On May 23, a student loan bill pushed by U.S. House Republicans was passed that would tie student loans to a market-based interest rate. Student loan rates would also be adjusted annually to match the market. The Senate majority said it would not bring the House bill to the floor for a vote.

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