By Susan Occhipinti
Many students will soon face financial turmoil as the interest rates on student loans increase this summer.
Crystal Wood, an animal science and pre-vet freshman, is paying for college on her own by taking out federal student loans.
If Congress does not act, as of July 1, the interest rates on Stafford loans, student loans from the federal government, will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
Wood said it is ridiculous that she is going to acquire so much more debt because Congress won't take action.
"I feel like the people making the decisions aren't affected by it, so it's kind of unfair that they're the ones who get to say what happens," Wood said.
President Barack Obama addressed students at several schools across the nation regarding higher education and the effects of an in increase on the interest rates of student loans in a conference call on Tuesday afternoon.
"I've always believed that we should be doing everything we can to help put higher education within reach for every single American student," Obama said.
However, because of the lack of effort on behalf of Congress, many students are going to be so much more in debt upon graduation.
"I'm not going to be able to get my life started as easily," Wood said.
Currently, Wood is employed in the library through the work/study program. She said that she would like to use that specifically for school, but sometimes she needs to pull money out of her paychecks for groceries and other necessity items.
Her parents tried to help her pay for college at first, but now the only help they can provide is co-signing her student loans.
"I understand that there are some people who take advantage of the money, but then there are people like me," Wood said. "I'm going to be in school for 10 years whether I like it or not. So it's frustrating because I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and I need the help."
And Wood isn't the only one. Obama said nearly 7.5 million students across the nation will end up owing more on their loan payments, and that this problem is preventable.
"There's clearly more work to be done," Obama said. "That's why I'm going to colleges across the country. I want to talk to students right now about how we can make higher education more affordable, and what's at stake right now if Congress doesn't do something about it."
Wood knows what is at stake. She has already acquired more than $5,000 in debt and will be in school for six more years, plus three extra years of residency for the veterinarian program.
Obama said that over the past few years, Republicans in Congress have voted against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families.
However, Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas (R) said that he hopes leaders in Congress will work hard to provide commonsense solutions that will prevent these increases from taking place.
"At a time when students are already struggling to pay off student loans and interest rates are at 3.4 percent, I do not believe increasing interest rates on student loans to 6.8 percent is a good idea," Lucas said.
"Raising these interest rates will only create more hardships for students working hard to pay off their student loans."
Obama said that from his perspective, this is a question of values. He said he does not want to let America become a country where a shrinking number of people are doing well while a growing number of people struggle to get by.
"We've got to build an economy where everybody is getting a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules," he said. "That's ultimately how the middle class gets stronger. And that's an economy that's built to last."
Obama also said that he has been calling upon the Congress for a while to take steps to make higher education more affordable, to prevent interest rates from doubling, to extend the tuition tax credit and to double the number of work/study jobs over the next five years.
"I'm going to take this issue to every part of the country this year," Obama said. "I'm going to keep focusing on it until Congress passes legislation to keep interest rates low and to continue to give students the chance to get the college education they need for the jobs of today, but also for the jobs of tomorrow."