WASHINGTON, DC –Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) held a press conference today at the University of Connecticut, Stamford urging Congress to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1. The Congressman was joined by local students.

“Access to higher education can’t be a luxury—it is an economic imperative and the best way to increase opportunity for every student, no matter where they live or what their family’s financial situation,” Himes said. “We will never compete with China, India, and the other nations around the world unless everyone who is ready for and wants to go to college can pursue higher education. We must act now to keep college loan rates low. I’m pleased that we may be close to an agreement on this issue, but students planning for college next year should never have had to wait this long for Republicans to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.”

Melanie Sabol, a Southern Connecticut State University student from Shelton who relies on Stafford loans to attend college, spoke at the press conference. She explained how the delay in action to keep student loan rates has impacted her.

“We need a good education—an education that we can afford,” Sabol said. “Waiting until the middle of summer to know what my loans will be this fall means I have to wait to make plans for school next year. And with the low salaries and high unemployment so many of my friends who have just graduated are experiencing, I know that every $10 I will pay when I graduate makes a huge difference.”

Without legislative action to keep rates at their current level, Connecticut students who rely on Stafford loans will be forced to pay an average of $807 extra per year. Under this scenario, the average subsidized Stafford loan borrower would have $2,800 in increased student loan debt over a 10-year repayment term. Students who borrow the maximum $23,000 in subsidized student loans will see their interest balloon, costing them an additional $5,000 over a 10-year repayment period or $11,000 over 20 years.

Congress passed a law in 2007 that reduced the fixed rate on Stafford student loans from 6.8% to 3.4% for all undergraduate students. Himes is a cosponsor of H.R. 3826, which would permanently extend the current rate.