If Congress doesn't act soon, interest rates on federal student loans will double in July. The interest rates were cut from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent in 2007, but will revert to their original level without action—action President Obama will be pushing hard for Congress to take. This is one of those issues that should be bipartisan, and was just a few years ago:
When the 2007 law was passed, 77 Republicans — most of whom are still in Congress — voted for it. But in the current climate of fractious partisanship, new legislation introduced by Representative Joe Courtney to extend the lower rate has 127 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats.But while the New York Times' Tamar Lewin finds some observers who think there may be Republican votes to keep interest low, in the Senate at least, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) is having none of it:
“We must now choose between allowing interest rates to rise or piling billions of dollars on the backs of taxpayers,” he said. “I have serious concerns about any proposal that simply kicks the can down the road and creates more uncertainty in the long run — which is what put us in this situation in the first place.”A word of explanation: College students are taxpayers, too, you asshole. Or they will be when they graduate, if they aren't already working their way through college. Keep the interest rate low or raise it, taxpayers are paying for this either way. The question is whether the taxpayers who are paying for it are students who can't afford to cover their ever-increasing college tuition in cash and need loans, or all the taxpayers, including the rich ones.
This is only an issue in the first place because of America's radical failure to invest in higher education. A credential that is a virtual necessity to have even a shot at a middle-class life—which is what a college degree is these days—should not be something that only the upper middle class and the wealthy can afford without a lifetime of debt. It's just beyond absurd that not only is that lifetime of debt now required, but Republican leaders are trying to drive a wedge between "college students" and "taxpayers." Good for President Obama for pressing this point.