Reed: Loan program has shifted from investing in students to profiting off them

The Senate is expected to consider the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, S. 1334, before the August recess, but some Democrats have argued that the bill still makes a $184 billion profit over 10 years “off the backs of students.”

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On July 1, need-based student loan rates doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Senate Democrats tried to pass a bill from Reed that would have extended the 3.4 percent rate for one year but failed to overcome a Republican filibuster requiring 60 votes to advance the legislation.

The bipartisan deal would be a permanent and retroactive solution basing loan rates on the 10-year Treasury note, plus 2.05 percent to cover administrative costs. The bill also caps undergraduate loan rates at 8.25 percent. The House passed a similar bill last month.

Republicans have argued that any deal needs to be deficit neutral, and the current budget agreement assumes the 6.8 percent rate would generate more than $180 billion for other federal spending.

“We have been locked into this budget neutral approach,” Reed said. “We’re going to enjoy it now and pay later; that’s the essence of the bill before us.”

Some vocal Democrats, such as Reed and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have argued that the bipartisan bill would harm future college students because if market based interest rates increase, as expected over the next few years, student loans could exceed 6.8 percent.

Reed said he’d offer an amendment to the bipartisan bill that would instead set the cap at 6.8 percent instead of 8.25 percent. He said the amendment is paid far by making millionaires pay a “small surcharge.”

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