4/23/2014 7:55:01 AM

Tonko Talks Loan Interest Rates

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Siena College welcomed 21st Congressional District Representative Paul Tonko to campus today to discuss the importance of passing legislation that would stop the pending increase of interest rates on need-based federal student loans from 3.4% to 6.8%. President Fr. Kevin Mullen ’75, O.F.M., Ph.D., faculty, administrators and students sat down with Congressman Tonko for a private meeting to discuss the issues and challenges facing students who will incur increasing student loan debt upon graduation.

“If interest rates for students double on July 1, 65% of students in this Congressional District will feel the impact,” said Tonko.

That includes students attending Siena College. "During this past year alone, almost 2,000 Siena undergraduate students had subsidized Stafford loans totaling more than $8 million in tuition assistance," said Siena College President Fr. Kevin Mullen '75, O.F.M., Ph.D. "I enjoyed sharing my thoughts with Congressman Tonko this morning in what proved to be a productive and positive discussion. It is my hope that Congress will pass legislation that will allow our students in need to continue pursuing the education of a lifetime without an additional financial burden."

One of those students, senior biology major Michele Smith ‘12, also participated in the discussion. The Wynantskill native plans to attend medical school upon graduation. She said raising the interest rate would put an even greater burden on students and families who are already struggling to pay for college. 

"Student loans are not hand-outs, they are investments in the future of our country," Smith said. "This increase would make it extremely difficult for bright and ambitious students to pursue goals that may ultimately change and improve the world in which we live."

Smith introduced Tonko to members of the Siena College community and local news media. During his address, Tonko urged Congress to take steps that would maintain the curent 3.4% interest rate on need-based loans. That rate was implemented during the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007. If Congress doesn't act by July 1, the interest rate would revert back to its previous level of 6.8%.

“This is not a partisan issue, it is a student issue. It’s time Congress stops playing games, understands the financial strain college places on so many students, and does the right thing by ensuring interest rates don’t double," Tonko said. "Our students, colleges and the economy should not be held hostage to Congressional partisanship and gridlock in a campaign year.”

According to Tonko's office, if action isn't taken, seven million students students across the country, including nearly 35,000 students in the Capital Region, will incur a combined additional $6.3 billion in repayment costs for the 2012-2013 academic year. That means college will become $1,000 more expensive each year for each student borrower. In New York, more than 420,000 student borrowers would have to pay $340 million in increased interest payments from one year of borrowing. Tonko said that money could go back into the local economy. 


Contact: Ken Jubie
Contact E-mail: communications@siena.edu

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