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Statement of Rich Williams, PIRGIM Higher Education Advocate, on the Congressional passage of bipartisan legislation to prevent subsidized Stafford student loan interest rates from doubling:
“Congress listened to students and their families and delivered a bill that stops student loan interest rates from doubling. Students already face unprecedented student loan debt and adding an additional $1,000 more would not only crunch individual borrowers, but would have further weighed down the recovering economy. We applaud Congress for coming together to pass this much-needed legislation.
“Without Congressional action, the interest rate would have doubled from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1st. An interest rate increase would result in additional debt over the life of the loan for 7.5 million low and moderate-income students who borrow new federally subsidized Stafford loans next year.
“Three months ago observers couldn’t predict whether Congress, mired down by partisanship and focused on the November election, would act on this critical issue. Yet a wave of student and borrower mobilization changed the political calculus, confirming that college affordability is a key concern for young people, their families, and anyone who cares about the U.S. having a high-skill, competitive economy. Today’s victory is another important step in getting rising student loan debt under control. When Congress considers further action to decrease student loan debt, they’ll know that students are paying close attention.
“Students and borrowers saddled with debt all across the country made their voices heard. In March, dozens of students gathered in front of the Capitol to deliver over 130,000 letters telling Congress Don’t Double My Rate! In May and June, students lobbied their lawmakers and participated in media events to amplify their voices. Student body presidents across the country rallied their campuses, with 275 presidents writing letters to their lawmakers and newspapers demanding action to extend the current low rate.
“Widespread action across the country continues to show Americans strongly support making college affordable. A large coalition of student, youth, consumer, parent, higher education and religious groups organized dozens of on-the-ground events in districts and mobilized hundreds of thousands of citizens to call or write their lawmakers.
“The House of Representatives passed legislation on Friday with a strong bi-partisan vote of 373-52 and the Senate passed the bill with a 74-19 vote. The 1-year student loan freeze was included in H.R. 4348, which included a package of issues including the 2-year reauthorization of the transportation bill. The President is expected to sign the bill before Sunday."
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