Is Congress Messing With Your Stafford?

Policymakers in Washington are considering legislation that may effectively slash private sector student lending programs. Some financial aid administrators are concerned that a push to increase the number of direct loans could diminish the availability of private loan services and raise the costs of tuition at some institutions of higher education.

For the time being, the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) services about 80 percent of all students who take out college loans. FFELP is a partnership between the public and private sectors that delivers and administers loans for students and their parents. The program has provided billions of dollars in loans since its creation in 1965. Stafford loans are the most common type of loan distributed by the program, distributing almost $50 billion to students each year.

There is a fear that disrupting the current system would shift the loan programs from the private sector to the public sector, creating a need for a government-run loan program.

Still, there is no need to panic, according to Colgate Director of Financial Aid Marcelle Tyburski, who assured that any such change wouldn’t diminish the quality of Colgate’s financial aid packages.

“From our standpoint, it would not harm us in any way at all. It’s not going to have any impact,” she said.

Even if the FFELP were to face changes in Congress, the changes would not directly impact the students, as it would only affect the banks and organizations that give out the loans, and it would not disrupt the guaranteed education loans of the current system.

“It’s about the lenders and their costs of running the program, because the Federal loans, by statute, are out there. They are not going to be able to put any additional costs on the borrower at all, and the loans will always be available for students. It’s very, very early in the discussion to try to draw any conclusions,” Tyburski said.

Nonetheless, paying off student loans is a daunting prospect for many students. Senior Sam Burd receives financial aid every year.

“Since I’m graduating, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I’m going to pay off my loans in the near future,” he said. “I’ve been wary about taking out more loans for graduate school. I’ve been thinking it might be better to just get a job now and finish off paying my original loans.”

Even students who have not yet taken loans can appreciate the burden many students have to face when paying off loan debt.

“I’m glad that I don’t have to take loans because I won’t have to worry about starting off my post-college life in debt,” sophomore Andy Roman said. “Not having the heavy debt that comes with loans gives me more freedom.”

The interest rates on students’ loans shouldn’t change anytime soon. The current rate of interest on those loans is about 6.8 percent. So, senior Sun Robinson isn’t concerned.

“I’ve only taken out one loan and that was for study abroad,” she said.

Robinson will have to begin paying back her $3,200 loan six months after her graduation in May.

“I’m a little worried, but ultimately the minimum payments are small enough that I can pay them back easily,” Robinson said.

Colgate’s Financial Aid office does its best to be accommodating.

“I think we have a very strong financial aid program,” said Tyburski.

The financial aid office determines awards via a ‘need-based’ system of aid, which comes in the form of grant funds, federal loans and possibly a campus job. The current cost of attending Colgate is estimated at $45,400 a year including tuition, housing and fees. Rising tuition rates are met with higher grant awards from the financial aid office, although it does work with a limited budget.