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I was up till 2 a.m. obsessing about my student loans. I decided to do something about it--I wrote my congressman! I encourage you all to do the same. Here's the text of my letter:

Dear Mr. Langevin,
I am writing regarding the current rules regarding student loan consolidation/refinancing. I am a full time mother of two small children, and I accumulated large student loan balances while pursuing graduate degrees. So, while I'm not earning any money, I am still paying on those $31,000 of loans. We are steadfastly trying to keep our finances under control so I can continue to stay home with our children. My husband and I have good credit and pay our bills on time, so we have been able to refinance our mortgage and negotiate lower interest rates with credit card issuers. However, the response from the owner of my student loan is, "Sorry, you've already consolidated, so there's nothing we can do." The result of this is that my credit cards (bad debt) carry lower interest rates than my student loans (alleged "good debt")!

It seems unfair that, while other forms of debt--mortgage, automotive, consumer/credit card--can be refinanced to take advantage of lower interest rates, student loans do not afford this same flexibility. Once you have consolidated your loans, you are stuck with that rate, with that lender. The only option to reduce rates is to take out still MORE loans at a lower rate and consolidate again (but even that only gets you a weighted average rate; not good enough for those of us with 9% interest on large balances). I believe it is fundamentally wrong that federally subsidized student loans, which were designed as a social program to facilitate higher education, essentially hold the borrower captive and afford no options to negotiate more favorable interest rates. Certainly this is to the lenders' benefit, but I don't think that is supposed to be the aim of the federal student loan programs. I ask you to work towards giving ALL student loan borrowers the right to refinance their student loan balances. The ability to refinance would enable borrowers to free up additional money to care for their families, to pay mortgages, or simply to pay off their student loan debt much sooner than would otherwise be possible. Please help!

Yours truly,
Amy Grupenhoff Shores

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