The U.S. House passed a bill today that would increase student loan interest rates in a manner that would create instability for students and their families, say opponents of the legislation. The bill, HR 1911, is called the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, but lawmakers say the Republican-supported legislation does nothing to help those attending college.
The bill would reset student loan interest rates every year based on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes plus 2.5 percent, meaning that interest rates would fluctuate annually for the life of the loans. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cost college students and their families $3.7 billion in extra interest payments over the next 10 years.
The legislation passed by a 221-198 vote, with no Democrats from Illinois voting in favor of the bill. Republican House members from Illinois, however, all voted in favor of the bill.
“Illinois students and their families deserve better than this bill, which makes students pay higher interest payments than they would if Congress did nothing and allowed rates to double,” U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL,2) said in a statement after the vote. “Total student debt currently stands at $1.1 trillion and this bill adds to that burden and will make it more difficult for Illinois students to afford college. We should be opening more avenues to a college education for our young people, not slamming the door shut in their faces.”
If lawmakers fail to act on the issue of student loans rates, they will double to 6.8 percent come July 1. As we have previously reported, lawmakers are concerned about the nation's balooning student loan debt, which is currently more than $1 trillion according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“Student loans allow working families to send their children to college and have an opportunity to achieve the American dream,” said U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8). “We should be finding ways to expand access to higher education. H.R. 1911 does exactly the opposite, which is why I voted against this ill-advised legislation. We cannot allow talented young Americans to have their dreams thwarted because we have lost sight of our priorities. We need to bring forth a common sense proposal and act now to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.” (Earlier this month, Duckworth held a roundtable discussion on ways to make college more affordable and student loan interest. Read our full report on that event here.)
The Obama administration says they will veto the House bill if it passes through Congress, saying the legislation would create too much uncertainty for students and their families.
But one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill, Virginia Fox (R-NC), says Democrats don't like they bill, they should come up with their own legislation to address student loans.
"If President Obama and Senate Democrats are serious about a long-term solution to the student loan interest rate problem, they will immediately consider and build on the ideas put forth in the Smarter Solutions for Students Act," said Foxx in a statement.
President Barack Obama's budget proposal outlines provisions similar to the Republican House bill, but caps Stafford Loan interest rates at 8.5 percent.