Interest rates on student loans reach record lows

Students are now offered more relief than ever in regard to student loans.

Since the introduction of the Direct Loan program in 1994 to the financial aid department, interest rates on subsidized and unsubsidized student loans have hit record lows.

Subsidized interest rates have fallen from 8.19 percent to 5.99 percent while unsubsidized rates fell from 7.59 percent to 5.39 percent.

The Direct Loan program has allowed students to receive loan funds directly from the federal government without having to go through a bank or credit union. Max Von Klein, assistant director of financial aid, said that the program is designed to make it less cumbersome for students to pay back their loans.

“We just happen to think it’s a better program here at Eau Claire,” Von Klein said. “It’s a crap shoot in a way that this year’s numbers are historic lows and students have reaped the benefits.”

Von Klein noted that this is just the fixed rate for a 12-month period and the students who have most recently taken out loans have been the major benefactors.

According to Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation, loan interest rates are variable as they are calculated each year, effective for the period from July 1 to June 30.

They are set according to statutory requirements that use the bond equivalent rate of the 91-day Treasury bill auction, held at the end of the preceding May, plus a statutory percentage add-on.

This year’s rates rates are based on a bond equivalent rate of 3.69 percent from the 91-day Treasury bills auction. Although this rate of 3.69 percent has not changed since 1994, Von Klein said that the add-on rate is what students can attribute to the decrease in interest rates.

He said that such factors as the new president, economy and Congress can all play a substantial role in lowering interest rates, suggesting that interest rates on student loans may rise and fall with the economy.

“Any point drop is tremendous,” Von Klein said. “It’s simply a variable factor much like the Dow (Jones) industrial average. It goes up and down based on both real and unreal perceptions.There’s no guarantee that the rates will remain so low.”