If Congress does not act, interest rates on new subsidized Stafford loans will double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1, 2013. Previously originated subsidized Stafford loans and all other education loans will not be affected.
Doubling of the interest rates certainly sounds dramatic, but the actual impact on students will be more muted.
Each year, less than a third of undergraduate students receive federal subsidized Stafford loans. The average subsidized Stafford loan is $3,357, based on data from the 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), with average subsidized Stafford loan debt at graduation of $9,008 ($11,329 for Bachelor’s degree recipients). Only 3% of subsidized Stafford loan borrowers graduate with debt equal to the aggregate limit of $23,000.
Assuming a 10-year repayment term, doubling of the interest rate on $3,357 in debt increases the monthly loan payment by less than $7. On $9,008 in debt, the increase is less than $18; on $11,329 the increase is less than $24; and on $23,000 the increase is less than $48.
Doubling the interest rate does not double the monthly payment. Most of the monthly payment goes to principal, not interest. For example, on a 10-year term, increasing the interest rate from 3.4% to 6.8% increases the monthly payment by about one sixth (16.9%).
So while the interest rate increase will increase borrowing costs, it is not a major disaster.
Focusing on the interest rates, on the other hand, is a distraction from the real problem (more…)