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July 1, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Democratic delegation urges roll back of student loan rates

Rep. Jim McDermott advises students to lobby Congress with their phones.

Rep. Jim McDermott advises students to lobby Congress with their phones.

Gathered in the shade in front of the University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library Monday morning, Democratic members of Washington’s Congressional delegation called for interest rates on subsidized student loans — which doubled Monday — to be rolled back.

Interest rates rose today from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, after Congress was unable to come up with a compromise bill to maintain the lower interest rate.

Monday’s news conference was a kind of replay to a similar news conference at the UW’s computer science building in April 2012. Then, as now, Congress was at an impasse over student loan interest rates, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray criticized Republican members of Congress for not being willing to compromise.

On Monday, she echoed those concerns. “Because Congress can’t agree on a lot these days, interest rates are going to go up starting today,” she said.

Murray said the increase would cost the average student about $1,000 over the 10-year life of a loan. About 56% of Washington state students borrow money to go to college, and they borrow an average of $22,000.

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, had a plan of action for the small number of students who gathered to listen.

“There is an answer to this, and it’s the cellphone,” said McDermott, waving his black phone in the air and calling on students to tweet, text, call or email to put pressure on Congress to lower the rate.

Subsidized Stafford loans, available to low- and middle-income students, have carried an interest rate of 3.4 percent. On Monday, the rate jumped to 6.8 percent. Many observers expect to Congress to reach a compromise that would include rolling the rate back retroactively.

Also at the news conference were Reps. Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer.

0 Comments | More in Education | Topics: student loans, University of Washington

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