With the Fed’s repeated lowering of the prime rate and interest dwindling on everything from home loans to consumer debt, student loans have taken their first cut in interest rate. That’s sparked interest in consolidating those loans, but Iowa College Student Aid Commission executive Director Gary Nichols says it may not be a good idea to try lowering payments by stretching out a ten-year loan. He says consolidating can extend the repayment to 20 years, but like a home mortgage, paying over a longer period means by the end you’ll have paid a lot more interest. Nichols says if a student can manage the payments, it would be wiser to pay off those college loans in the shortest time possible. The Commission at this month’s meeting got a report on the number and dollar total of student loans given this year.Loan volume is up about 6 percent, and the commission’s helped about 40-thousand students this year. He says the increase is typical. With deep budget cuts forcing Iowa schools to consider double-digit tuition increases, Nichols anticipates the rise in demand for student loans will continue unabated.