Dems call for two-year extension of lower student loan rates

"Last year, with a tremendous push from students across the country, we successfully postponed the interest rate from increasing," Courtney said. "Unfortunately, we are again staring down a July 1 deadline to act.

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"This legislation will not only defuse the ticking time bomb and provide certainty for two years, but it will also provide the Congress with time to craft a thoughtful long-term solution to address this growing problem that is weighing down young people as they enter the workforce."

The bill is a reminder that Congress will again be under pressure to take action to prevent Stafford loan rates from rising to 6.8 percent from the current 3.4 percent rate for new loans.

Last year, Congress approved a bill at the last minute to extend the lower rates for new Stafford loans, as part of a bill that also extended highway funding and the National Flood Insurance Program. That bill paid for these programs by changing the way corporate pensions are calculated, and increasing premiums paid to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

While Congress applauded its last-second action, it actually acted too late, and was forced to pass a second bill delaying Stafford loans for a week.

Courtney said his will would help prevent students who borrow the maximum $23,000 in Stafford loans from paying back an additional $5,200 in interest payments over 10 years. He said the two-year extension would give Congress more time to find a longer-term solution to keeping student loan rates low.

Congress slowly reduced Stafford loan rates from 6.8 percent starting in 2007, but has yet to reach agreement on whether to keep the rate at 3.4 percent, or how to pay for making that rate permanent.

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