CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Local college students say if Congress doesn’t keep federal student loan interest rates low, it could hurt their ability to pay for school, or make them decide if an education is worth continuing in a bad economy with poor job prospects for recent graduates.
President Obama urged Congress to freeze current federal student loan interest rates while speaking to students Tuesday at UNC Chapel Hill.
It could affect about 7.4 million undergrads across the country, including 160,000 in North Carolina.
UNC Charlotte sophomore Khaleel Loyd estimates he'll have $10,000 in federal student loan debt by the time he graduates with a degree in communication studies.
He's trying to pay that debt while still in school and says the last thing he needs is the interest rate on his federal loans doubling. But that could happen unless Congress votes by July 1 to keep interest rate at the current 3.4 percent.
President Obama said a rate increase would cost the average student with a federal loan an extra $1,000 over the life of the loan.
"A thousand bucks is a lot for somebody that doesn't have a lot anyway,” Loyd said. "Having to pay back the extra money would tremendously affect my financial situation along with my parents."
Sophomore Mackenzie Lollar said her fiancé dropped out of UNC Charlotte because he found a job and didn't want to risk not having one after graduation.
She said she's at that point as well and the possibility of paying more interest is a factor.
"I don't want to be stuck paying for college 10 to 15 years down the road with it potentially going up to that higher interest rate because I wouldn't be able to afford it,” Lollar said.
Right now student loan debt is estimated around a $1 billion, affecting 37 million people across the United States.
Keeping the rate where it is for one year would cost taxpayers $6 billion.
Lollar said it could cost her a degree.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney blasted President Obama’s handling of the economy and its impact on college students trying to pay for school and find work.
Even so, Romney said he supports Congress temporarily extending the low interest rates.