2012 Interest Rate Increase
Last year around this same time, a hot story in the media was the impending interest rate increase for Federal Direct Stafford Loans. Subsidized loans were at 3.4%, and with legislation running out, were set to double to 6.8% — the same as their unsubsidized counterparts. Luckily for students, Congress extended the lower interest rate for another year.
Projected Rates for 2013–2014
Once again, subsidized student loan interest rates are facing an impending increase, and are still up in the air. Without action, students may see an increase to 6.8% for the 2013–2014 academic year. This means that the only difference between subsidized loans and unsubsidized student loans would be that the former will not accrue interest while in school or in a grace period.
At this time it is unclear what actions may be taken to prevent student loan interest increases. We could see another one-year extension of the lower rate, or a system overhaul may even be possible. However, if nothing is done by July 1, 2013, students can expect to see the higher rate take effect for all new subsidized loans.
The Future of Federal Student Loan Rates
Private student loan rates are currently based on an index rate (such as the Prime or LIBOR indeces) plus a set margin. This allows for flexibility based on the current market. Federal student loan rates do not follow this structure, and are not tied to any economic factors, making it difficult to set competitive and affordable rates for borrowers.
To rectify this, organizations such as the New America Foundation have submitted proposals for better ways to handle federal loan interest rates. The proposals include tying interest rates to 10-year treasury notes and securities. Rates would be determined similarly to private student loans, with a variable base, plus a proposed margin of 3.0%.
While it is unclear which, if any, of these proposals will be enacted, it’s possible that borrowers could see more affordable rates in the near future.
For more information on interest rate proposals, read Solving the Interest Rate Quandary: Two Feasible Proposals on NASFAA.org.