This is the VOA Special English Economics Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Student loans and the interest that millions of Americans pay on them have been getting a lot of attention recently. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards.Interest rates for Direct Subsidized Student Loans could double to almost seven percent on July first. Five years ago, Congress lowered the rates for these government loans. But that law is set to expire. The president has called for keeping the current 3.4 percent rate. The administration says more than seven million students will be affected without an extension of that lower rate.The government says the average cost of attending a public college was almost thirteen thousand dollars in twenty ten. The total for private schools was over thirty-two thousand. Americans owed eight hundred forty-five billion dollars in student loans in twenty-eleven. Some reports say the amount is now near one trillion dollars.President Obama has recently given speeches on several college campuses. He said when he and his wife, Michelle, graduated from college and law school, they had a "mountain of debt." He told students that college tuition and fees have more than doubled since most of them were born. He noted that the average student who borrows to pay for college now graduates with about twenty-five thousand dollars in student loan debt.An extension of the lower rate could cost the government six billion dollars. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supports an extension. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives say they like the program. But they want to pay for it with money from the new health care law. Democrats have proposed other ways to pay for it, such as ending tax breaks for oil and natural gas companies. The website edupass.org says most loans, grants and scholarships from public and private sources in the United States are restricted to American citizens. American schools that provide aid to international students are more likely to provide it to graduate students than to undergraduates. Some students are supported by their home university or government. A small number receive support from the United States government. Employers, private sponsors and international organizations also help some students pay for school. Edupass.org has listings of colleges and universities that offer financial aid to foreign students. Another helpful site about American higher education and financial aid is educationusa.state.gov. For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 27Apr2012)
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