Alexander: Dems' student loan bill leaves middle class 'twisting in the wind'

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On July 1, need-based student loan rates doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. 

Republicans have argued that the Democrats’ bill would address only loan rates for the poorest 40 percent of students, while a GOP bill would be a “permanent student loan fix.”

Alexander’s competing bill is similar to what House Republicans passed last month. The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, S. 1241, requires all newly issued student loans for each academic year be set to the U.S. Treasury 10-year borrowing rate plus 1.85 percent for undergraduate loans. The cap on interest rates for consolidated loans would be 8.25 percent. Because the cap is so high, Democrats have argued the bill is worse than doing nothing.

“The other side continues to push a so-called long-term solution that would saddle students with even more debt in the future,” Reed said. “A bad deal is worse than no deal at all.”

Alexander, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Democrats are “playing political games” with student loan rates.

“What is good about a short-term political fix that makes middle-income and graduate students pay even more?” Alexander said. “This is not a time for playing politics. This is serious business.”

Last month, the Senate attempted to pass similar legislation that would have extended the 3.4 percent rate for two years, but there wasn’t enough support to overcome the Republican filibuster requiring 60 votes to advance the bill.

Democrats argue that given one more year, lawmakers would have time to address the drivers of tuition increases and the $1 trillion of existing student loan debt in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

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