Student loan interest rates the focus of Obama visits next week


US President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Mar. 6, 2012.


Chip Somodevilla

President Barack Obama will travel to college towns in three states next week as part of a push to get Congress to extend low interest rates on federal student loans.

According to the White House, Obama will visit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado at Boulder on Tuesday, and will speak Wednesday at the University of Iowa. The White House is also planning a social media campaign through Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, using the hashtag #DontDoubleMyRate.

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Obama plans to appear for the first time on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" during a taping Tuesday on the campus of the University of North Carolina, according to the Washington Post.

At issue is the interest rate on new subsidized Stafford loans, issued to low and middle income college students.

On July 1, those rates will double to 6.8 percent unless Congress acts, The Associated Press reported.

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The rate hike would mean about $1,000 in additional debt each year for the average student, the White House said.

However, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a one-year freeze on the Stafford loan interest rate would cost the government about $6 billion -- a price tag that doesn't sit well with many conservatives, The New York Times reported.

“Bad policy based on lofty campaign promises has put us in an untenable situation,” John P. Kline Jr., the Minnesota Republican who is chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, told The Times.

Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney, who introduced legislation to keep interest rates low, told The Times he was hopeful for some GOP support as the political stakes surrounding the issue become more apparent.