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Obama Presses Congress on Student Loan Interest

President Barack Obama spoke about student loans Tuesday at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

President Barack Obama spoke about student loans Tuesday at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Correction attached

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Student loans and the interest millions of Americans pay on them have been getting a lot of attention recently. Student loan payments and interest are a financial reality for men and women in many different kinds of jobs across the United States.

The Department of Education says interest rates for Direct Subsidized Student Loans will double to just under seven percent on July first. Five years ago, Congress passed a measure that lowered interest rates for the government loans. But the law is set to expire.

The president has called for the lower, 3.4 percent interest rate in his new budget. But if Congress does not act, new student borrowers will pay more. Other borrowing-related costs will also go up. The Obama administration says this will cost each student borrower an additional one thousand dollars on average.

Higher education in the United States is costly. The Department of Education says the average yearly cost of attending a public college was about twelve thousand eight hundred dollars in twenty ten. The total for private schools was over thirty-two thousand.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York collects financial information. It says Americans owed eight hundred forty-five billion dollars in student loans last year. Some reports say the amount is now near one trillion dollars.

The administration says 7.4 million students will be affected without a new law. This week, President Obama traveled to several college campuses. At the University of North Carolina, he talked about his own experience.

BARACK OBAMA: “We didn’t come from wealthy families. So when we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor together.”

Supporters of low student loan interest rates have promised a campaign to get new legislation. An extension is estimated to cost the government six billion dollars. Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s likely presidential candidate, supports an extension. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives say they like the popular program. They just differ on how to pay for it. Republicans want the money to come from the new health care reform law.

The Democratic Party has proposed increasing taxes on some businesses, including oil and gas companies. Last Tuesday, President Obama put his argument to music on a late-night television program.

BARACK OBAMA: "Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.”

JIMMY FALLON: “Oh yeah.”

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. I'm June Simms.


Correction: The Obama administration estimates that higher interest rates would cost student loan borrowers an average of one thousand dollars a year, not just one thousand dollars. Also, one Democratic proposal would pay for extending lower rates by ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies, rather than "increasing taxes" on them as this story said.

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