Concerned UW students stand behind Senator Murray during her press conference Friday at the Paul Allen CSE Building. Photo by Alex Ho
Sen. Patty Murray visited the UW campus Friday to address the issue of student loan interest rates, advocating that national legislation keep interest rates low.
Murray, along with three students attending the UW and Seattle high schools, shared personal stories about the importance of low interest rates. Murray said she relied on student loans while attending college, as are the students now.
“This is not an abstract issue for me; this is very personal,” Murray said. “I wouldn’t be standing here in front of all of you as a United States senator if our country didn’t have student loans and Pell Grants when I was young.”
She explained that she came from a family with seven children. Her father had multiple sclerosis and lost his job, and her mother had to go back to work. But Murray and all of her siblings graduated from college, and she attributes this to the availability of student loans.
With Sen. Murray to the right, sophomore Kika Kaui speaks on the impact higher interest rates would have on the estimated $11,000 in loans she would have to take for just one year of school.
Murray explained that on July 1, a law keeping interest rates on federally subsidized standardized loans at 3.4 percent will expire. Once the law expires, the interest rates will double. Both Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell are working on legislation to keep interest rates low.
“We shouldn’t be doubling interest rates on a critical program that these students count on,” Murray said.
Murray and other U.S. senators are currently working on the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012. This piece of legislation seeks to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, which keeps interest rates on student loans low.
One of the speakers, Kika Kaui, is a sophomore studying international studies at the UW. She is minoring in Portuguese and augments her education with cooking classes. Like many students, Kaui has a hard time funding her education as well as her living expenses.
“I’m required to pay for this without a lot of help from my parents, who have to deal with my siblings as well,” Kaui said.
Kaui works as a waitress to pay for groceries and rent, but she has to take out loans to pay for school. By the end of this year, she’ll have $11,000 in loans. She worries about having to work two jobs to pay off her loans once she graduates.
Miles Hernandez, a junior at UW studying political science, is in a situation similar to Kaui’s: He’s funding his education through loans. If interest rates increase, he worries he won’t be able to afford law school.
But Hernandez worries most for his younger brothers. One is a freshman at UW Bothell, and the other is still in high school. He said, with tuition costs still rising, they will have to pay more than he does for college. If student loan interest rates double on top of that, Hernandez worries they won’t be able to afford college.
“I believe that low interest rates will allow me, my brothers, and my fellow students to pursue our education and career goals,” Hernandez said.
The third student speaker, Atenas Figueroa, is a senior at Interlake High School. She will begin studying engineering at the UW in the fall. Like Kaui and Hernandez, she will need student loans to pay for college. Her parents will help her pay for her education, but they can’t afford both Figueroa’s education and her sister’s.
“I know that I have to go to college,” Figueroa said. “My parents have made this very clear to me since I was little. They want for me what they were not able to accomplish.”
Reach reporter Amelia Dickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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