July 2, 2013

College loan rate doubles, hurting affordability

Graduates in Maine already have average debt of $26,000, and they'll owe even more unless Congress acts.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

University of Iowa student Angie Platt, 20, is seen on campus in Iowa City, Iowa on Monday, July 1, 2013. College students taking out new loans for the fall term will see interest rates twice what they were in the spring — unless Congress fulfills its pledge to restore lower rates when it returns after the July 4 holiday. Platt said the increase in interest rates for subsidized Stafford loans will add to her debt load, which is expected to top $60,000 by the time she graduates. (AP Photo/Ryan J. Foley)

Audrey Allen, who won't be burdened by student loan debt, said she doesn't think the higher interest rate will make students think twice about attending college, but it might make them think harder about which school they attend.

"Some people want to go out of state or go to that big-name school, but is it worth it?" she said.

Others, she said, may put off college until they earn a little money.

"That might be good, too, so they have a sense of what they want to study," Allen said. "There are plenty of people who have degrees in fields they were interested in but not ones where they can get jobs."

Amber Pritchard, 18, of Winthrop said the cost of college, including the higher loan interest rate, has weighed heavily in her plans.

She wanted to go to Unity College to study wildlife management. Instead, she plans to enroll in the culinary arts program at Central Maine Community College in Auburn, where tuition costs less.

Pritchard said many of her friends are in the same situation. Some are thinking of taking a year off, she said. Others are looking at schools overseas, where tuition is cheaper.

Many, though, likely will continue with college plans because it's still the best option for their future.

Talya Davis, 28, of Boston received her undergraduate degree in biology from Smith College and is set to get her master's degree in microbiology from Tufts University later this summer.

The current rate on her loans for graduate school is 5.25 percent. The rate on her undergraduate loans is lower, but she could not remember how low.

She will pay back about $15,000 in loans for her education and estimates the monthly payment to be $150.

"If you have a job, it's not hard to pay that back," she said. "But not everybody is finding that good-paying job."

Davis isn't even going into the job market right away. She plans to be a stay-at-home mom for a while.

Still, she said, she will be glad to have her master's degree when she does decide to go back to work.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:


Twitter: @PPHEricRussell 

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