CONGRESS squandered a year of potential progress on student-loan interest rates. The result of its inaction was a sharp rise in rates on Monday.
Rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans jumped from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, essentially slapping a $1,000 tax hike on students, according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The average student-loan debt is around $25,000, which can include other types of loans.
A financial hit to 7 million undergraduates, including more than 100,000 in Washington state, can be reversed. If Congress passes a temporary extension to the lower rate by the end of July, the rate hike would be reversed.
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Just do it, Congress. Strong options include a proposal by Murray to freeze rates for one year and a bill by Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, to hold it at 3.4 percent for two years.
DelBene deserves support from her colleagues as she tries to get 218 members to sign a discharge petition, allowing an immediate up-or-down vote on her bill, which has been blocked by House Republicans.
Credit the state Legislature for trying to address the problem of rising tuition. The 2013-15 budget freezes tuition for at least one year. An important precedent by state lawmakers should not be erased by political intransigence at the federal level.
Families do not need interest rates that rise and fall from year to year. They need affordability and consistency. President Obama proposed annually setting rates to the Treasury’s cost of borrowing and fixing rates for the life of the loan. Obama’s proposal would also expand the “Pay as You Earn” repayment option so no borrower ends up paying more than 10 percent of his or her discretionary income for student loans.
Congress needs to fix this.