The interest rate on Federal Stafford Loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent Monday when Congress failed to act to keep the rates low.
The change will affect seven million college students nationwide, including some in the Coachella Valley.
"I really don't want to go into debt," said Breanna Gianos, an incoming freshman who is taking out Stafford loans to attend the Palm Desert Campus of Cal State San Bernardino.
The La Quinta High School graduate said she chose to go to the state school closest to her home in part because the tuition is lower than many other schools.
"I know I have to pay 6.8 (percent) interest after the first year," Gianos said of the increased rate. "Which is just like another $400 or so on top of my $6000 a year (tuition).
She said compared to the $20,000 she would have to pay at some other schools, it isn't as bad but, "It's coming out of my pocket," she said.
Increased debt is the new reality for a growing number of college students and graduates. Americans owe more than a trillion dollars in education loans. That's more than they owe on car payments and credit card payments.
"I applied for many scholarships and grants," Gianos said. "Unfortunately, I didn't qualify for any. So I am taking out a loan. I'm working, paying my way through college."
Gianos is in the minority among members of the inaugural freshman class at CSUSB Palm Desert, where 70 percent of the students are from low income families receiving federal grants and scholarships that will pay most, or all, of their $6500 annual tuition.
"Grants are given to students who are low income and who qualify for aid based on their parents income," CSUSB Admissions Counselor Avisinia Rodriguez said. "These students who are first-generation, low income obviously get free money, which are the grants that don't have to be paid back."
While most of the 113 members of the first ever freshman class are fortunate not to be walking into a mountain of debt, rising interest rates on student loans are a concern for those who must borrow to pay for their education."
"It will be hard to find a job. Then having to pay all that off at once ..." Gianos said. "I'm hoping that everything will just follow through and I can finish on time."
And like the other 7 million students nationwide affected by the doubling of the interest rates on Federal Stafford loans, Gianos can only hope that lawmakers make good on their pledge to return the interest rate to 3.4 percent when the next session of congress resumes after the July 4th holiday.