Congress tries to save student loan deal

Cathryn Cook just graduated from Susquehanna Township High School and has plans to become a dance teacher.

“I kind of set a goal for myself to go to HACC for two years and take my general education classes,” said Cook. “It's good financially.”

But what is not good financially is if interest rates double on Cook's student loans.

“It's kind of stressful,” she said. “It's like, what do you do now? You have to make a stretch to get more money, figure out where you're gonna go, how you'll get the loans.”

According to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, there are about 400,000 other students in Pennsylvania who are in the same situation. Casey is asking his fellow members of Congress to raise their hands and vote to keep interest rates down.

“There's no reason why Democrats and Republicans can't come together to avoid that and to provide some certainty for students and not add to the already high debt burden they have,” Casey said.

Kathy Shepard, the financial aid director at Central Penn College, said if the burden gets heavier, students may be forced to lighten it themselves.

“Maybe they don't live on campus, maybe they start commuting, maybe they take less credits so they can pay more cash versus taking out more loans,” Shepard said.

“To be blunt about it, the federal government hasn't been working hard enough on coming up with a broader measure to provide some relief,” said Casey.

If interest rates go up, Shepard said it is likely the loan default rates will go up, too.

The rate hike would only affect Stafford loan holders. It would not affect anyone who has already taken out a loan.

Casey said that if Congress votes to keep interest rates down, that money will have to come from somewhere else, like taxes. Congress has until July 1 to decide.

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