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Student Loan Interest Rates Must Not Double | Commentary

My name is Sampson Armstrong III. I’m a finance student at Howard University about to go into my second year. I’m doing well, studying hard and working to help pay for school. Early on, my family and I placed my education as our highest priority, and I’ve worked very hard and have been very fortunate to get to where I am. But in order to be able to attend Howard University, I have to take out the maximum amount of federal subsidized Stafford and federal unsubsidized Stafford loans each semester, and my parents did not qualify for any loans. In total we will owe about $60,000 by the end of this upcoming school year.

We will continue to rely on these loans until I finish my degree. I’m thankful for my opportunities, but I know that taking on these loans was a huge decision for my family and me, even though we knew that college was an investment that we had to make.

Last year, Congress came together on a one-year solution to keep interest rates low for students, but once again, interest rates on new federal subsidized Stafford loans are about to double. That makes me very worried.

There are more than 7 million students across the country that take out these loans who are just like me: We care about how much it costs to pay for school and we need interest rates to stay low so we aren’t burdened even more for years to come. If Congress lets interest rates double on July 1, we’ll pay an extra $1,000 for each year of college over the life of the loan. That money adds up, and we definitely feel the pain. Taking out loans is already a tough choice and a daunting thing for so many families. As the July 1 deadline gets closer, my family and I aren’t sure what other hard decisions we will have to make to continue my education.

Paying for college isn’t easy for most people, and it shouldn’t be made harder for those of us already struggling. That’s why I urge Congress to get behind the Student Loan Affordability Act, to keep interest rates low for two more years. We can’t let interest rates rise for students now, and we can’t accept a costlier system for students down the line.

Members of Congress who support variable interest rate proposals without low caps probably mean well. But they should also know that students across the country will all be paying more under these plans in just a few years. Many would be paying more than if interest rates are allowed to double. This shouldn’t be the case.

Make no mistake: Students are tired of having to wage this fight every year when we should be doing more to fix rising student loan debt and the skyrocketing cost of college. We can and should get to a comprehensive solution that works for students. There just isn’t a plan on the table that does this.

I urge Congress to listen to the stories of real students out there who will suffer if interest rates double. If they heard our stories, they’d know that some of us are worrying that we won’t be able to stay in school. Some of us are concerned that our siblings will have to pay way more for college than we are right now. Because of this, our parents are worried about our abilities to get the training that we need for jobs if we’re burdened with thousands of extra dollars when we graduate.

With just days to go, time is running out and my future is on the line. Congress should extend current rates before the clock runs out.

Sampson Armstrong III is an 18-year-old rising sophomore from Fort Washington, Md. He attends Howard University.

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