WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will visit three universities next week, and urge Congress not to allow student loan interest rates to double, the White House said.
Press secretary Jay Carney said the president will visit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Colorado at Boulder Tuesday, and he'll go to the University of Iowa Wednesday.
He is expected to talk with students to press Congress to prevent interest rates on student loans, set by Congress in 2007, from rising from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, based on an average loan amount, the rise would pile on more than $1,000 in debt.
"For students who borrow heavily to go to college, it would obviously cost them even more. And we estimate that this interest rate increase will affect more than 7 million families expected to take out new loans this fall," Duncan said. "At a time when going to college has never been more important, it has also, unfortunately, never been more expensive. Families and students are struggling to meet these costs, and there's no reason why we should add to their burden."
Duncan disputed Republican claims that Democrats are using the matter as wedge issue.
"This was passed five years ago in a bipartisan way," he said. "No reason it shouldn't pass again in a bipartisan way.
"We need a lot more young people to go to college and to graduate," he said. "That's all this is about."