Raising student loan rates won’t solve problems

Published 11:00 pm Friday, July 5, 2013

Thanks to Congress, getting a college education became even harder last week for millions of Americans.

Because Congress failed to take action, interest rates on federally funded Stafford loans jumped from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on Monday. And for the more than 7 million undergraduates who rely on those loans, experts estimate the interest rate hike is the equivalent of a $1,000 a year tax hike.

And $1,000 to a struggling undergrad or recent college grad in search of job? Well, that’s a nail in the financial coffin.

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Sadly, Congress could have taken action to prevent this increase, but members failed to act, leaving our college students who depend on these loans paying the price.

There is hope. Two bills pending now could reverse the increase, if action is taken by the end of the month. One would freeze rates for a year and the other would hold rates at 3.4 percent for two years. Offering a longer reprieve to struggling students. Either merits consideration.

In our struggling economy, with jobs at a premium and millions of college graduates unemployed or underemployed, raising interest rates on student loans seems like a cheap shot. Our nation’s financial problems won’t be solved by raising rates on student loans, but we sure can take another step backwards by penalizing students by raising interest rates.

Surely Congress can find more effective approaches to righting our fiscal ship.