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Debt aid important to UNLV students

Geoffrey Moran just graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in meeting and events managements and $15,000 in debt.

A job with the student union helped Moran chip away at his federal loans and keep them below the average UNLV student’s debt of $18,000. He is one of 5,550 on campus who received a subsidized Stafford loan in the past year.

The looming interest rate increase on those loans – the impetus for President Barack Obama’s visit at Cox Pavilion on Thursday – would only apply to new loans, so it won’t affect Moran or other UNLV students who already have a loan out. But Obama also talked about helping students by keeping college costs down.

UNLV tuition and fees have increased by 73 percent for undergraduates since 2007, according to the school.

David Foshee faces $26,000 or more in loan debt – the national average – when he graduates in the fall. He is confident he will find a job doing research to pay that off but isn’t so sure about the rest of his classmates. He was part of a small group of protesters outside the event railing against lackluster job recovery and the president’s handling of the economy.

"When we graduate, we cannot find the jobs that we need," Foshee said. "A lot of us are piling on record amounts of debt."

In the past academic year, the school’s Financial Aid and Scholarships office disbursed more than $59 million in subsidized Stafford loans to undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

Students with those loans don’t have to pay interest until after graduation.

Norman Bedford, the office’s director, guessed that a rate increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent could mean an extra $3,000 to $5,000 in costs. But even if the rate doubles come July 1, Bedford said, a loan from the government is "still a better bargain than a private loan." If that happens, he hopes students looking to finance school will call for help.

"I would hate to see any UNLV student … let that be a hindrance to them pursuing their education," he said.

Contact Kyle Potter at kpotter@review journal.com or 702-383-0391.

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