Sioux Falls, SD – During a meeting with college students and administrators, U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today pledged his support to stop a scheduled doubling of subsidized Stafford student loan rates. Johnson is pushing for Congress to act to prevent new subsidized Stafford loan rates from jumping to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012.
“South Dakota already has the highest percentage of students graduating with debt. We need to make college more affordable and not allow this devastating rate hike to punish our students,” said Johnson. “Hearing from students this afternoon has reaffirmed my commitment to prevent this rate hike. I will do everything I can to stop the rate from doubling.”
Johnson was joined at the event by Jeff Holcomb, President, Southeast Technical Institute (STI); Rob Oliver, President, Augustana College; Chuck Staben, Provost, University of South Dakota; Jim Rokusek, Director of Students, STI; Brenda Murtha, member of the South Dakota Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and Director of Financial Aid, Augustana College; Jaelene Pascoe, 2012 STI Graduate; Karl Konakowitz, STI student and Lindsay Haase, STI student.
Should Congress fail to act, approximately 7.4 million students nationwide will see their interest rates double on July 1, 2012. South Dakota students rely heavily on student loans and many will be negatively impacted by the scheduled interest rate hike. Over 30,000 South Dakota undergraduates receive subsidized Stafford loans. For South Dakotans graduating from college, the average student loan debt is $23,171. A recent report by the Project for Student Debt found that South Dakota ranks first in the country for having the largest percentage of students leaving college with debt.
In addition to fighting to keep rates low, Johnson has been an ardent supporter of Pell Grants and work study programs to help South Dakotans afford higher education. He also recently voted against the House-passed Ryan Budget. Under this plan, South Dakota students would likely see their Pell Grants cut by $810 and 530 students would lose their work-study jobs.
“At the same time some in Congress are voting to gut proven programs that allow more students to afford college, they are also playing politics with student loan rates,” continued Johnson.