SIUE students lament increase in student loan interest rate

News-DemocratJuly 10, 2013 

The Senate's failure on Wednesday to cut student loan interest rates is a particular disappointment to college students like Jasmine Siebert.

Siebert, 20, of Kankakee County is a nursing student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Although she qualifies for the state MAP grants, she still needs to take out student loans to cover her tuition and expenses. It took a $6,000 loan just to cover her summer session, she said.

The rate for the last two years has been 3.4 percent, but it expired July 1, doubling students' interest to 6.8 percent.

Due to that decision and continuing uncertainty about her student loans, Siebert has changed her long-term plans. At first she was going to push through her masters degree before trying to find work as a nurse, so she could solely focus on school.

But now, once she is finished with her bachelor's degree, she will have to sign with a hospital in the hopes of getting the hospital to help her with the costs of her master's degree. That means she will be obligated to that hospital for a number of years after graduation, she said.

"It's gotten a lot more complicated than I thought it would be," she said.

Siebert works on-campus to help support herself, but can only get 16 hours a week at $9.50 an hour. She said she's not as worried as other students about paying off her loans, since her income as a nurse should help her a lot -- but she expects to owe anywhere from $30,000 to $45,000 by the time she finishes her bachelor's degree.

"I'm just trying not to drown," she said.

And for 21-year-old Jesse Graf of Edwardsville, his MAP and Pell grants were not sufficient to cover his tuition and expenses after the first couple of years. So he has started taking out loans, as he finishes his dual-major degree in mass communications and theater design at SIUE. Unlike hospitals, those industries are unlikely to have programs to help with his loan payments, he said.

"It's going to be a lot harder to get that done," he said. "It's frustrating ... the inability of politicians to realize that their kids may suffer from this, too."

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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