Unless Congress acts this week, student loan rates will double when a bill expires that has kept them artificially low.
Senate leaders reached a tentative deal Tuesday to freeze student interest rates—scheduled to rise from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent July 1—for one year. While Congress debates, many Christian colleges are seeking to reduce the burden of student loans. It's a growing concern as student debt nationwide has exploded to $1 trillion.
Brandon and Brenda Borders are beneficiaries of a program at Huntington University in Indiana that provides loan repayment assistance if a student's salary is low after graduation. Brandon works as the marketing director for a rural Internet provider, while Brenda works in youth ministry. "I'm going to be able to pay [my loans] back and do what I love," said Brenda of entering the program. "It was unbelievable. I was just full of joy."
The Borderses graduated with typical debt loads, says Jeff Berggren, Huntington's senior vice president of enrollment. The school's graduates have an average of $25,000 in loans, which matches the nationwide average. Those who receive assistance get quarterly reimbursement checks for, on average, $1,500—or $250 per month. Depending on their future salaries, students might continue to receive checks for the life of the loan.
Huntington offers the loan repayments through LRAP, a company that mostly serves Christian schools. Colleges pay into the program when they enroll students in it.
While Huntington enrolls all its students in the program, most schools use it for the 20 percent most likely to have trouble repaying loans. "If a student says they can't afford to take out loans, we say don't let the fear of debt prevent you from attending ...