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As the Senate debates student loan reform, congregations across Illinois are calling on Congress to make college more affordable. Congregations, including Wheaton Franciscans, New Hope Christian Community Church and First Congregational Church of Chicago U.C.C., are circulating petitions and mobilizing their members to urge Congress to stop the student loan interest rate from rising. They will also hold a prayer for student loan relief during their services this Sunday.
“We can’t burden tomorrow’s leaders with unsustainable debts. Our faith teaches us that we have a responsibility to ensure that all of us are able to reach our full potential - from one generation to the next,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, a network of dozens of religious denominations and faith communities tackling unjust debt.
“In today’s economy, students need a college education to get ahead,” said Celeste Meiffren, Field Director with Illinois PIRG. “Doubling the interest rate for student loans would make this goal harder to achieve for thousands of Illinoisans.”
The interest rate for student loans is scheduled to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1st, unless Congress intervenes to extend the low current rate. The new rate would affect federally subsidized Stafford loans, which are provided to almost 7.5 million low and moderate-income students nationwide each year.
The average student borrower already graduates with over $25,000 in student loans. On average, the doubling of the interest rate would add approximately $1,000 in debt for every year a student takes out a loan, adding up to more than $4,000 over a four-year education.
"The families in my church often rely on student loans to send their children to college in search of a brighter future because of the lack of jobs in the area,” said Rev. Dr. James Hunt of New Hope Christian Community Church. “Our students’ efforts to better themselves and the communities they live in should be rewarded with employment and not hindered by huge student loan debt."
To stave off the rate hike, Congress needs to act by July 1st to maintain the existing interest rate. The United States Senate is expected to vote on this issue within the next few days.
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