Student loan interest rates

Updated: Saturday, August 3, 2013
Student loan interest rates story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The numbers are staggering--of the 7 million or so students going to college in this country, 66 percent of them are on campus thanks to borrowed money.

With the failure of Congress on Wednesday to face down a problem that it knew was coming for a long time, the interest on new student loans has doubled.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says our government not only doesn't see the little picture, it can't even imagine the bigger one.

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I understand that the men and women who make the decisions in our congress have a lot of work to do. I get it.

But it's gotten to a point where if something is truly important—it just doesn't get done.

It's embarrassing that the Senate knew for a year—a full year—that if it didn't do something, the cost of student loans would, on July 1st, go up.

So what did it do? It went home on vacation.

And guess what; interest rates went up from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

Hello?!

Then yesterday, the votes weren't there to come up with a temporary fix. No surprise. There were Senators looking for a permanent fix. They knew that going in.

Nonetheless, there was a lot of breathless posturing; a charade, if you will, to convey just how hard they were all working.

I don't think the rate will stay that high for very long. For one thing, it's bad politics. It could mean votes!

But what's missing is real conversation about the bigger picture.

I think we can all agree that the need for higher education has never been greater than now. The high-school-to-factory  syndrome is long gone.

Even those jobs now require more than high school can provide.

Continuing education is crucial to the future of our country. Its no longer a matter of "it would be nice," it's a matter of "we have to."

Trouble is, the cost of college and specialized training schools is cold-bloodedly expensive—up about 500 percent over the past 25 years. The cost of text books has tripled over the past ten years.

More and more moms and dads find it impossible to pay as they go, so two-thirds of all students now borrow to attend class.

Students can no longer pay their way with a part time job.

And the average student graduates with a debt of $28,000. But there are tens of thousands of students who graduate with  debt of up to $200,000 dollars.

Right now, Americans owe more than a trillion dollars on student loans. The second highest kind of consumer debt out there behind the mortgages.

And now for the hammer.

Lest you think students loans cost us money—last year, according to the government accounting office, the U.S. government collected $51 billion in interest payments. Fifty-one billion dollars!

Why in the world is the U.S. government making that kind of money off students who have yet to land a job?

A few months ago, freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, suggested it might be wise to lower student loan interest rates to below one percent—the same rate that banks pay the federal reserve for short-term loans.

So simple, so reasonable, so doable.

But then—we're talking about Congress.

Making college degrees and technical certificates more affordable should be a national priority.

We need young graduates to be strong, competitive, and dynamic, just as the United States needs to be strong, competitive and dynamic.

The accumulating student debt is a drag on our economy—just think about how far those billions in interest payments could go in a world of starter houses, cars, and small business loans.

We've got lots of problems with higher education in this country. But setting a truly low, fixed interest rate, to encourage ambitious young people, instead of adding to their burdens, is a part of the answer.

Think about it.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on October 31, 2014 17:47 GMT

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers expect better economic growth and rising incomes in the coming months, pushing a measure of confidence to a seven-year high in October.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 86.9 from 84.6 in September. That's the highest since July 2007, five months before the Great Recession began. Still, the index regularly topped 90 before the downturn.

Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, says that almost six in ten of the respondents said the economy has improved recently, the highest proportion in more than 10 years.

The measure is the second this week to show consumer confidence has reached the highest level since the recession. Greater confidence and more hiring could lead to faster spending and healthier economic growth.

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in September, the first decline since January, as shoppers took a breather after a big spending spree in August. Income growth posted the slowest gain this year.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in September. Income edged up 0.2 percent in September, the smallest monthly gain since a flat reading last December.

The spending decline followed a big 0.5 percent increase in August. In September demand fell for durable goods such as autos and for nondurable goods, a drop that partially reflected falling prices for gasoline.

Spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists believe September will be a temporary pause as continued hiring gains pushing up spending and the overall economy in coming months.

GASOLINE PRICES

NEW YORK (AP) -- The average price of gasoline in the U.S. hit $3 a gallon Friday, and should soon drop below the benchmark for the first time since December 2010.

The price at the pump fell 33 cents in October, thanks mainly to plunging oil prices, according to AAA.

Many exuberant drivers have taken to social media to post pictures of gas station signs with prices of $2.99 or lower. Drivers in South Carolina and Tennessee are paying the lowest prices, with an average of $2.75 a gallon.

Drivers in New York are paying the most in the continental U.S., at an average of $3.37. That's still 22 cents cheaper than a year ago.

Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon.

EARNS-BIG OIL

NEW YORK (AP) -- Falling oil prices hardly seem to be bothering the two biggest U.S. oil companies, but things could get tougher in the coming months.

Exxon and Chevron leaned on strong performances from their refining operations to increase profits in the third quarter despite plummeting global oil prices.

The global price of oil fell 18 percent from the beginning of the quarter to the end, and it cost both companies. Revenue slipped at Exxon by 4 percent and at Chevron by 8 percent.

But low oil and natural gas prices make for low raw material costs -- and higher profit -- for refining and chemical operations, which turn oil and gas into fuels and chemicals. Profit at Exxon's refining and chemicals operations rose 38 percent compared with a year earlier, and Chevron's profit from its so-called downstream operations more than tripled.

Those results helped Exxon's overall earning rise 3 percent in the quarter to $8.07 billion. Chevron's earnings rose 13 percent to $5.59 billion.

NISSAN-AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan says it's recalling more than 1,800 Infiniti SUVs in the U.S. for an air bag problem that could send shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The recall covers the QX56 SUVs from 2013 and the QX80s from 2014. The company says inflators made by Takata Corp. were built with an incorrect outer baffle part. That can cause pressure to build up, and the inflators can rupture if driver's side air bags are deployed.

Nissan has no reports of injuries from the problem. It was discovered after General Motors recalled 33,000 Cruze compact cars for the same problem in June. The Infiniti recall is part of a larger global recall of 260,000 Nissans announced last week.

Takata says the recall is separate from another one affecting 8 million vehicles in the U.S.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Inflation has crept higher in the 18 countries that use the euro but the rise to 0.4 percent in the year to October is unlikely to offer much relief to the European Central Bank as it tries to boost a weak economy.

The official figure released Friday was up from 0.3 percent the month before.

The European Central Bank is under pressure to give the eurozone another dose of stimulus measures in coming months because inflation is so low and growth so weak. There are fears the eurozone could even fall into outright deflation, a crippling downward price spiral.

Core inflation, a key measure because it excludes volatile food and energy prices, fell to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent.

The bank's goal is to keep inflation just below 2 percent.

BRITAIN-RBS

LONDON (AP) -- Royal Bank of Scotland, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, has set aside 400 million pounds ($639 million) to cover potential fines arising from international investigations into alleged manipulation of foreign currency trading.

The total represents over half the 780 million pounds the bank earmarked for "conduct and litigation costs" in third-quarter earnings released Friday.

The results show the bank, which was bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis, swung back to profit during the July-September period. Its net income of 896 million pounds follows an 828 million-pound loss last year.

CEO Ross McEwan says the bank knows it has "a long list of conduct and litigation issues to deal with and much, much more to do to restore our customers' trust in us."

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