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Local students want resolution on spiking student loan interest rates

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- Some area college students’ eager to see student loan interest rates stay the same reached out to President Obama for help.

The students from Virginia Union University and Virginia Commonwealth University  joined forces, and along with Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, participated in a conference call with the White House.

The students said they’ve been anxious to see how lawmakers on Capitol Hill handle the matter.  Today Republicans in the Senate shot down a proposal that would have kept interest rates on federal student loans from doubling on July 1.

Asif Bahvnagri and Jae Lee, both student government leaders at VCU were a part of that conference call. They said it was an opportunity of a lifetime. Both students said they made it clear to President Obama that students simply can’t afford the potential increase in rates.

Bahvnagri said two of his family members are paying back loans right now. “It’s hard to see them paying it back.”

“They put their whole paycheck towards paying the loans,” he said. “If the rates doubled, that would be a huge blow” said Bahvnagri.

Republicans and Democrats remain at odds over how to fund the $6 billion dollar measure,  but students like Jae Lee said it’s imperative lawmakers get it done.

“I know a couple of friends of mine took time off just to pay their loans back now at 3 point four percent,” said Lee. “Doubling it would scare them away from coming to college and they don’t want to deal with the stress of paying back the loan.”

Now Lee and Bahvnagri said they’re focusing on spreading the word to other students and hoping at some point lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will do what it takes to keep those rates from doubling.

"He (President Obama) knows young people use social media and he's done that to get his message out,” said Bahvnagri. “I love that he’s even using  hash tag don't double my rate.”

“ I’ve taken it upon myself to tweet that several times this week too. I want to make sure that students are aware of the situation,” added Bahvnagri.

Allowing interest rates to double would cost the typical student about one thousand dollars over the life of the loan. The higher rates, should they increase, would only affect students taking out new loans starting July 1.