UW students, Sen. Murray make plea for student loan interest rate fix

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by TONYA MOSLEY / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 27, 2012 at 5:29 PM

SEATTLE -- In the land of purple and gold so many are already in the red: About half of the students at the University of Washington will graduate with about $19,000 in student loan debt. 

"Right now I owe close to $5,000," said Alex Frasier. "I think around $15,000," said one freshman.

"It's quite a bit, it's quite a bit," said graduate student Maddy Day, laughing.

Then there is Esi Ameh, a law school graduate: "I owe a quarter of a million."

Ameh is 26 years old and $250,000 in debt, not including interest.

"When we have students that are coming here and going into the workforce and are able to drive our economy forward I think it's ridiculous to slap them with something that almost disincentives education!" said Ameh.

Sen. Patty Murray (D) stood before UW students to make a plea. "Unless Congress acts, interest rates at the UW and across our campuses is going to double."

The House passed a measure Friday to keep the rates from jumping higher, but President Obama threatened a veto after the Republican majority added a provision that would cut some health care spending to offset the costs of the student loan legislation.

That makes Murray nervous.

"If a political action is taken with no chance of a bill passing, that puts us back a few weeks," she said.

In order to keep the interest rate where it stands, the government will have to cut or borrow from other programs. Murray said the Senate wants to do that by cutting a tax loophole that allows some corporations to get out of paying payroll taxes. She said the idea has been supported in the past by both Democrats and Republicans. She's hoping they'll get it done by July 1.

Graduates like Ameh will be watching closely. Her post-graduation future depends on it.

"If we know that education is important we don't want to almost punish people for doing something that is helpful to themselves or our society," she said.

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