Democrats propose student loan interest rate reductions

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Two key Democratic lawmakers are promoting a bill to cut the interest rates for student loans in half in response to large budget cuts made to student aid earlier this year.

The “Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act,” introduced earlier this month by Rep. George Miller (D-Ca.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), would lower interest rates on federally subsidized student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent and cut parent loans from 8.5 percent to 4.25 percent.

Given estimates showing that the average college student will graduate with roughly $17,500 of debt, the lawmakers said the bill would save the typical student $5,600 over the life of the loan.

In a conference call with several media outlets last week, the congressmen said it is important for Congress to affirm its commitment to making higher education affordable to anyone who seeks it.

“We think this is important at a time of year when students and families and others are filling out applications, visiting campuses, trying to figure out who’s going to pay for that education when their students get accepted by a school to go to next year,” Miller said. “It is a critical time of the year, and we should send a signal that will be able to afford that education and not be crushed by debt.”

The proposal comes after Congress passed more than $12 billion in student aid cuts – largely by means of increased interest rates – as part of a comprehensive budget reconciliation bill that will go into effect July 1. Debate over the issue was largely split along party lines.

Durbin and Miller have also established an online forum for students to post anecdotes and commentary about their struggles to cope with college costs, and asked students and parents alike to urge their Congressmen to support the new bill.

Durbin said the bill is critical to counter the constantly rising cost of a college education, which he said is forcing more and more young people to forgo college entirely rather than be saddled with substantial student loans.

“They have to take the best paying job … and sometimes that may not be the job they want or the best job for America,” Durbin said. “I think that if we’re committed to our students and future generations and giving them the options they need to make this a better nation, we need to undo the harm that’s been done to this bill.”

The lawmakers said it will be difficult to bring the bill to the House floor, but that they are hopeful they will receive bipartisan support for the measure as attention on the issue increases.

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