Student Loan Deal Faces an Easy Path in House

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“This bipartisan agreement is a victory for students, for parents and for our economy, and it is consistent with the House Republican bill passed in May,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.

“The House will act expeditiously,” Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged.

The Republican chairman of the House Education Committee, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, predicted “the bill’s swift passage.” And the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. George Miller of California, similarly urged Boehner to bring up the Senate bill and pass it quickly.

All seemed to portend lower rates for students, a reversal from less than a month ago.

Rates on new subsidized Stafford loans doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1 because Congress could not agree on a way to keep them at 3.4 percent. Without congressional action, rates would have remained at 6.8 percent — a reality most lawmakers called unacceptable.

“This permanent, market-based plan makes students’ loans cheaper, simpler and more certain,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Senate education panel. “It ends the annual game of Congress playing politics with student loan interest rates at the expense of students planning their futures.”

The measure’s supporters suggested that the compromise was better than the status quo for students returning to campus for fall classes.

Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate education panel, said the legislation was not what he would have written had he had the final say. But he also said he recognized the need to restore the lower rates on students before they return to campus.

“It’s the best that we can do,” Harkin said.

Harkin added that a rewrite of the Higher Education Act this fall could include a comprehensive review of college costs and could revisit the loan rates for future classes.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill as written would reduce the deficit by $715 million over the next decade. During that same time, federal loans would be a $1.4 trillion program.

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