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Senate Bill to Extend Low Interest Rates for Student Loans Fails

In a vote of 52 to 45, the Senate failed to pass a motion [3] to begin debate on a Democratic bill that would have frozen student loan interest rates before they are set to increase on July 1st. The Senate needs 60 votes to begin debate on a bill and Republicans planned to filibuster the bill over how the bill would be funded. The cost to freeze interest rates would be about $6 billion and Democrats planned to offset that with increased Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on high earners.

Who is affected by this increase? Any students taking out subsidized Stafford loans after July 1st. The current rate, set by a law in 2007, is a mere 3.4%. Holders of existing subsidized Stafford loans are not affected.

Personally, I’m of the mindset that subsidized funding for education is important but we’re in a very troubling time. The cost of one year at my alma mater is nearly $60,000 a year [4] – which is nearly double what I paid. Well, technically I got Stafford loans and some grants, but the top line number was “only” $30,000. There’s no doubt that college is expensive but higher education is like any profit – it’s price is in part dictated by supply and demand. As more cheap money is available to student borrowers, colleges can pay more because the student offsets higher prices with cheap funding.

This is especially true when you look at the for profit education space, where for profit universities are happy to charge less exorbitant sums knowing full well that their students aren’t going to be getting a positive ROI out of the investment. I’ve heard plenty of “non profit” (I think all universities are for profit) horror stories of people with six figure debts for low paying entry level liberal arts degrees too, so it’s not a “profit vs. not-for-profit” issue.

That said, I don’t know what the solution is but I don’t think increasing interest rates will help us as a whole.