WASHINGTON - 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.
Subsidized Stafford loans, which account for roughly a quarter of all direct federal student borrowing, went from 3.4 percent interest to 6.8 percent on Monday. Congress' Joint Economic Committee estimated the cost passed to students would be about $2,600.
"In the grand scheme of all the loans that I already have, I suppose it's not out of control," said Angie Platt, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student who expects to graduate with at least $60,000 in debt.
"It's just another thing to add on. It doesn't help me; that's for sure," she said.
Efforts to keep interest rates from doubling on new Stafford loans fell apart last week amid partisan wrangling in the Senate. Democratic senators and the White House both predicted that a deal would be reached in Congress to bring the rates down again before students return to campus.
But if an agreement remains elusive, students could find themselves saddled with higher interest rates this year than last.
"It's kind of surprising; that's a big jump," said Rebecca Ehlers, an Iowa State University senior majoring in math.
She - and millions of others who use federal student loans to pay for their education - has some time before she has to make that decision. But not much.
"The only silver lining is that relatively few borrowers take out student loans in July and early August. You really can't take out student loans more than 10 days before the term starts," said Terry Hartle, a top official with colleges' lobbying operation at the American Council on Education.