City Colleges of Chicago students feeling pinch of doubling student loan rates

July 1, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Summer session is on at Harold Washington College.

Some students are taking advantage of grants here and the lower cost of the community colleges in general then combining their credits for degrees elsewhere.

Student Nemanja Stefanovic has already taken out thousands in Stafford loans toward a degree so he can take the entrance exam to become an air traffic controller.

"To be quite honest I don't even want to think about how it's going to be once school is done and the grace period runs out and I have to start paying everything back," said Stefanovic.

Congress recessed last week without a deal to keep subsidized Stafford loan rates low.

So on Monday those rates went to 6.8 percent, double what they had been.

Financial aid counselors at City Colleges discourage students from taking loans.

The City Colleges' Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Financial Service, Cynthia Grunden, sees a benefit to all our communities when higher education is more accessible.

"We should as a nation be willing to make investments in higher education for students particularly for low income students who struggle with access and part of that is giving students an interest rate that can afford to pay off their student loans," said Grunden.

Single mom Gina Smola tranfered to Harold Washington after taking out thousands of dollars in Stafford loans at a previous college. She fears higher rates may prevent her from getting the advanced degrees needed to pursue a career in addiction studies.

"I'm working everything out the best I can and if rates are doubling, my son's college education will eventually come first. And I don't want to be too far in the hole when it's time for him," said Smola.

Congress could still find a way to keep the rates low when they return after the holiday.

Most students don't sign loan documents until they return for the fall semester. So the hope is for students and financial aid advisors that the lower rates will resume before many students have to commit to new loans.

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