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Gillibrand To Obama: Allow For Lower Student Loan Rates

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is renewing a call for legislation that would allow student borrowers to refinance their federal student loans at lower interest rates, urging President Barack Obama to push the effort in his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

Gillibrand To Obama: Allow For Lower Student Loan Rates

The New York Democrat said Sunday there's currently about $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationwide -- and the average New York graduate owes more than $27,000.

"It would help out any graduate who owns student debt," Gillibrand told WCBS 880. "It will help literally millions of people across the country who have enormous amounts of student debt. In New York alone, there are 2.7 million borrowers who have federal loan debt, and 76 percent of their loans would be eligible for refinancing under our bill.

"It also gives our young people the chance to buy a home, start a family, start a business. And to many young people unfortunately are putting those things further and further into the future because of student debt."

Last May, Gillibrand introduced the Federal Student Loan Refinancing Act, legislation she said could affect nearly nine in 10 federal student loans by allowing borrowers who have a higher interest rate to refinance at a fixed rate of 4 percent. Most rates for federal student debt are higher than 6 percent, she said.

There are 40 million borrowers nationwide, and 2.7 million in New York, Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand planned a news conference on the issue for Sunday afternoon. Kevin Stump, the higher education program coordinator at the New York Public Interest Research Group, was to join Gillibrand in urging the president to commit to the legislation.

Refinancing legislation would increase disposable income, allowing students and recent graduates to spend money in ways that could boost the economy, Gillibrand said.

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