President Barack Obama, joined by college students, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, May 31, 2013, where he called on Congress
President Barack Obama, joined by college students, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, May 31, 2013, where he called on Congress to keep federally subsidized student loans rates from doubling on July 1. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

At 19 years old, it seems as if Stephanie Bilyeu shouldn't have to worry much about money. That's not true.

The Windsor Township resident has been through two regular semesters and a summer stint at Penn State so far. The price tag: $60,000 in loans.

"As I submit my (loan) requests, I'm just like, 'Oh, my gosh,'" Bilyeu said. "And it all adds up."

She's just one of millions of students who rely on loans to finance their education: Earlier this

month, federal student loan debt topped $1 trillion, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced.

To the mixed response of students, Congress appears to have come to a compromise on student loan interest rates after missing a key deadline earlier this summer that caused those rates to double to 6.8 percent.

A recently passed Senate bill would lower interest rates to 3.86 percent for undergraduates taking out federal loans.

The catch to the compromise? That rate is only good through the 2015 academic year, is linked to the financial markets and is expected to climb higher in coming years.

Both President Barack Obama and the House have voiced support for the Senate bill; a House vote could come as early as Wednesday.

Local students: But the cost of education is just too high, Bilyeu said.

"It's overwhelming just because you want to be focused on school and getting your education, but then you have that money issue in the back of your mind," she said.


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Some of her friends strongly considered cost when choosing schools and sometimes opted for their second or third choices for that reason, she said. But she'd still make the decision to attend Penn State, she said.

"After being there this past year, I couldn't picture being anywhere else. So for me, it's worth it," she said.

Gabrielle Dean, 18, of Spring Garden Township isn't impressed with the Senate bill. She will be a freshman at West Virginia University in the fall and is taking out loans to attend, she said.

She said she feels good that interest rates will be kept down for a couple years. But with her whole college career ahead of her, she said it's a bit daunting to know they'll soon increase.

"It's kind of frustrating," she said. "I really need the money, and my parents need the money. I have two brothers, too, that need it."

'Makes sense': But Devon Tierney, 19, of Springettsbury Township, lauded the bill.

"I guess that makes sense," she said. "It's almost like it evens out then."

The HACC sophomore will transfer to another school after she puts in her two years, she said, which will help keep down costs for her parents, who are footing the bill.

"Right now, (the bill) doesn't affect me, but I guess it's good for them," Tierney said.

And it also seems logical, said Korey Eberly, 19, of York Township.

"I guess if it rises as the economy rises, it's a good plan," the York College sophomore said, as parents and students would be making more money and be able to pay back their loans on time.

Eberly said he hasn't taken out any student loans so far.

"Not yet, at least," he said.

--The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.