Congress passes student loan bill

By Alex Veeneman on June 29, 2012

Students spending some time outside at York College in Pennsylvania.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user yorkcollegepa)

Congress has passed legislation that will keep student loan rates fixed at 3.4 percent before a rise July 1, in conjunction with a measure that allocated funding for construction of roads and bridges. The measure passed the House 373-52, according to a report from NPR, and passed the Senate 74-19 shortly afterwards. The NPR report added that President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

In a statement, the White House said they were pleased with the bill’s passing. “For months, President Obama has been calling on Congress to take up these two important priorities before middle class families pay the price for inaction. Thanks to Congress heeding that call today, millions of American students will avoid a $1,000 debt hike while millions of construction workers will be able to stay on the job,” the statement reads.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan added in a statement that education is for public good. “College should not be reserved only for those who can afford it,” Duncan said. “All of us share responsibility for making college affordable and keeping the middle-class dream alive.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was happy Congress could work together on the issue, but expressed concern over Obama’s efforts to make it “a political issue and distract attention from his failed record on jobs.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said in a statement that he hoped bipartisan cooperation would continue in the weeks ahead. “This legislation proves that when Republicans decide to work with Democrats, we can do a lot to move our economy forward,” Reid said. “Wasting precious time fighting old legislative battles does not create jobs. I hope this bipartisan cooperation will continue as we move forward with a tax cut for small business owners that will spur job creation and boost the middle class.”

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said the legislation was a victory for college students. “Students across the country spoke up and the Congress listened,” Harkin said in a statement obtained by Uloop. “As middle class families struggle with the cost of tuition during these tough economic times, we must ensure that cost does not keep hardworking students from getting a college education.” Harkin added that he was committed to college students and ensuring the costs of education remained low.

A spokesperson for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce did not respond to Uloop’s requests seeking comment.

If the rate were to be raised from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent July 1, education costs for students would have increased by $1,000, according to a report from the Washington Post. This plan is to affect more than 7 million students who currently receive Stafford loans, the Post adds.

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