Loan interest rates could double for Butler students

Butler University’s Student Government Association passed a resolution last Wednesday calling for congressional action on student Stafford loan interest rates.

The interest rate, currently at 3.4 percent, is set to double to 6.8 percent on July 1 when a program established in 2007 to cut back rates will expire.

There are 2,500 Butler students—or more than 60 percent of the student body—who rely on Stafford student loans,  said Melissa Smurdon, director of financial aid.

About 8 million students take out Stafford loans nationwide each year.

SGA President-elect Mike Keller, who drafted the resolution, said the interest rates don’t necessarily have to stay at 3.4 percent but shouldn’t increase so drastically.

“I understand if they have to raise it to, say, 4 percent, but my biggest concern is if they don’t come up with anything at all,” he said. “Double is a very sudden burden for people to bear.”

Smurdon said she is seeing more families hesitant to borrow money, which could affect how many students are able to come to Butler.

“As a tour guide, it breaks my heart how many people say, ‘I love this place, but how much financial aid would I get?’” Keller said.

Keller said he is afraid prospective students could cross Butler off their lists because of the cost and not get to experience all that Butler has to offer.

Because of political and partisan tensions in Washington, reaching a solution before the July 1 deadline may be difficult, Smurdon said.

“The biggest thing that we as SGA can do is be a vocal voice,” Keller said. “We have a bigger role as well, to make sure that we exert our voice into the political discussion when it’s going to affect our students.”

According to The New York Times, President Barack Obama is “planning a sustained effort” to combat the raise.

This includes a social media campaign on Twitter, using the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate.

“In America, higher education cannot be a luxury,” Obama said last week in an address. “It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.

“We cannot let America become a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of people struggle to get by.”

Keller said he also received a letter drafted by other student body presidents seeking the signatures of 300 student body presidents nationwide to send to leaders in Washington, D.C., in an attempt to voice their concerns.

Keller said he plans to sign the letter once he assumes the SGA presidency today.

Keller said he will be sending the resolution to every congressman representing a state where a Butler student is from.