MSA president joins national effort to extend student loan interest rates

Student loan interest rates are set to double to 6.8 percent July 1.

Missouri Students Association President Nick Droege has joined a joint-collegiate effort to extend current student loan interest rates by signing a national call to action directed toward Congress.

The letter started by the Georgetown University Student Association opposed an interest rate increase on Stafford Loans. The rate is set to increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent July 1.

More than 100 student body presidents around the nation hope to raise awareness about the growing student debt crisis. Student debt exceeds $1 trillion and may soon increase further, according to an MSA news release.

“We urge you to take action by July 1st and believe now is an opportunity to implement a comprehensive, student-centered approach to student loan reform to more aggressively tackle the student debt crisis,” the letter stated.

The July 1 deadline stems from successful student efforts last year to keep interest rates at 3.4 percent. Tesulting legislation extended the 3.4 percent rate for only one year.

If Stafford Loans double to 6.8 percent, students will owe almost $1,000 more than they do at the 3.4 percent. The average Missouri student would collectively owe $144,304,137 in additional debt, according to an analysis by Campus Progress.

“The most important thing is that the UM system is banding together and trying to let the students be heard,” Droege said. “We have the national effort of all the student associations coming together, and contacted all the representatives and U.S. senators, and there were speeches on the hill about that effort. Now it’s just focusing on the state-wide efforts.”

The state-wide efforts in question will be directed to Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.

Droege sent an open letter to Hartzler Tuesday, encouraging the congresswoman to work with fellow Washington legislators to find a solution to the impending student loan rate increase.

"I am writing you today with deep concern over the impending student loan rate increase set to take effect on July 1st, in less than two weeks," Droege wrote. "The planned rate increase, from 3.4% to 6.8%, would take thousands of dollars from the pockets of students and their families at a time when many can scarce afford it."

The letter to Hartzler was intended to ensure she is aware students at the university are tuned into this issue, Droege said.

“The letter’s purpose is urge her to represent the student voice and let her know the student government and the 33,000+ students here are behind her when she does," Droege said.

Droege said that with the July 1 deadline approaching, he and other leaders are trying to utilize as many avenues of communication as they can to get in touch with our legislators.

“We’ll be getting the other student governments to sign on to the letter to send to the representatives,” Droege said.

There is an additional social media effort involved, Droege said.

“The Facebook page has instructions on how to reach out to your legislators,” he said. “Those are big efforts. Outside of that, there’s not a whole lot we can do besides to keep contacting those officers.”

The letter also calls Congress to ensure that repayment options are simple and predictable, and emphasizes protections against unpredictable high-interest-rate environments. If a long-term solution is implausible, the coalition also calls for a short-term extension of the 3.4 percent rates until reform is viable.

Droege said he believes one challenge to overcome in the face of the crisis is making students’ voices heard as the legislation expires.

“There is a lot of noise around the issue, but we need to make sure students' voices are heard above all the rest,” Droege said. “Making sure that students are the ones being heard at the state level and the national level is our biggest obstacle.”

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