SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Subsidized student loans for college students could double by this weekend if Congress doesn't act this week to keep the interest rate at 3.4 percent.
But if Congress allows the interest to go up, the loans won't be any more expensive than they were just five years ago.
"And because that provision was put into place for four years, when it expires now we're facing it automatically going back up to 6.8 percent," Augustana College Financial Aid Director Brenda Murtha said.
Murtha is keeping an eye on Congress this week to see if they reach a deal to leave the interest rate on subsidized student loans at 3.4 percent, or if they'll let the rate return to the level it was at five years ago.
In 2007, Congress passed the College Cost Reduction Act, which gradually stepped down interest rates. The first year the rate dropped to 6.0 percent, then to 5.6 and 4.5 before reaching the low-rate of 3.4 last year. The Act expires July 1 so the interest rate will go up compared to the last few years, but won't go any higher than the traditional rate.
"I don't feel that it should be a deal breaker as far as, 'I'm not going to go to college because this interest rate is going to change,'" Murtha said.
The majority of students don't even qualify for the loans that will be affected; only 30 percent of students receive subsidized loans.
Still, Democrats and Republicans are trying to reach agreement on how to pay for the low-interest loans. Congresswoman Kristi Noem is hopeful something can get worked out.
"A lot of our college students are having difficulty finding work and right now these interest rates should be kept affordable for them and that we not increase them at this time - as long as we pay for them," Noem said.
Democrats and Republicans have been going back and forth on where to find the $6 billion to keep the rates low, but haven't reached an agreement.
The majority of college students qualify for unsubsidized loans. The interest rate on those loans remains at 6.8 percent.
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