Federal college loan rate drops to 3.42 percent, an all-time low

EBy Jenifer Siegle Every year, thousands of University students graduate expecting to find jobs or move on and leave their college experience behind them.

But most carry at least one reminder with them – lots of student loan debt.

If forecasts are correct, when the interest rates are re-assessed July 1, the rates on federal college loans might decrease from 4.3 percent to 3.42 percent, an all-time low.

Due to the expected decrease next month, everyone is waiting until July 1, said Jim Kennedy, senior associate director of the Office of Student Finance, to see how low interest rates will drop. An estimated 16,000 students use some kind of loan to subsidize their education, Kennedy said.

The government allows a grace period of approximately six months for students to get on their feet before paying back the loans. However, with the job market still lagging, many students are waiting to consolidate their college loans to find the lowest possible interest rates.

The Office of Student Finance reports that the average four-year college student receives between $2,625 to $5,000 per year in federal loans, depending on their need and academic year in school. At those rates, students will walk out with between $20,000 and $30,000 in debt after college.

Students can consolidate their loans in order to make one monthly payment on all of their loans at a fixed interest rate. This ultimately allows students to pay less in interest and become debt free quicker.

Another reason students are waiting to pay back their student loans is that once they consolidate, they must begin making payments immediately. For many students the six-month grace period is worth the wait.

“Next year it is crucial that students consolidate their loans before graduation; this allows them to receive low interest rates,” Kennedy said.

“Students need to look at all the players before making the decision to consolidate. Every case is different. You need to choose the one that works best in your situation,” Kennedy said.