Tonko, students criticize college loan rate hike

Posted at: 07/01/2013 2:50 PM
Updated at: 07/01/2013 5:35 PM
By: Bill Lambdin

ALBANY - Casey Ciceron used to go to Temple University. Then she transferred to the University at Albany, in part because of the cost.

"I come from a family of six," Ciceron said. "I have three older sisters that went to school so I have to take loans out."

Now new students face even more debt, even at public universities, because the interest rate for money they borrow has doubled.

Congressional Republicans addressed the issue in May by approving a system their Budget Office says would raise the rate even more, to 7.7 percent.

"And so another manufactured crisis is the outcome in Washington where business that needs to be taken care of in a timely fashion in this regard simply was not achieved," Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said at a news conference on the UAlbany campus.

Student loan debt is now higher than credit card or auto loan financing.

"The idea of doubling student loan interest rates when so many middle class families depend on these loans to get their kids through college is outrageous," said Senator Chuck Schumer (D - New York).

A spokeswoman for Congressman Chris Gibson (R - Kinderhook) disputes the Democratic interpretation.

Stephanie Valle criticized the Senate for not passing a student loan bill.

She says Gibson is willing to consider other approaches and is confident Congress will address the current rate hike retroactively.The event was held at the same campus where Governor Cuomo traveled twice this spring to push for his Tax-Free New York program, subsequently renamed and passed by the legislature.

The federal and state governments hand out big tax breaks all the time to corporations and individuals, but are showing little collective sympathy for middle class and poor college students.

"The more people who are college educated, the better off our country is going to be in the future," said Kevin Fox, a U-Albany senior. "I think it's ridiculous that we'd have tax free zones for giant corporations but not for students."