Congress cuts collegiate student aid

Molly Zeckser

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $12.7 billion cut in federal student aid last Wednesday. The goal of this slash in funding is to help diminish the national deficit.

Once made into law, the bill will reduce government subsidies to private lenders, raise interest rates for students and parents and put more stipulations on agencies that guarantee loans.

“The money from these programs is going to help reduce the national deficit,” said Annita Huff, director of financial aid at Washburn University. “If it were going back in to education I could live with it.”

Currently, student loans are figured at variable rates that change accordingly with the 91-day treasury bill every July. Students in school now pay at a rate of 4.7 percent on their loans. Those in the repayment phase pay at a rate of 5.3 percent. The Feb. 1 vote approved to raise those rates to a fixed 6.8 percent for loans disbursed on or after July 1.

The federal PLUS loan for parents is currently at a fixed rate of 6.1 percent and if the recent bill is made a law, it will raise to a fixed 8.25 percent.

Huff has e-mailed and called Congressman Jim Ryun and the president several times to express her concerns. She hasn’t gotten direct feedback from Ryun or anyone in Washington. She said she cares very deeply about students and tried very hard to persuade Congress to vote against the cuts.

Huff said it’s difficult to get Congress to understand.

“It is not only a struggle for low income students, but middle income students too,” said Huff.

Al Dickes, dean of enrollment at Washburn, said student aid has been in the political arena for quite some time. He urges concerned students and parents to communicate with their state representatives and give their opinions on the rate changes and the specific impact the changes have made on them to their state representatives.

This bill will now go to President Bush. If he signs it into law it will take effect July 1.