If Congress doesn’t act by July, interest rates on student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.


The Senate is expected to vote on a bill introduced by Sens. Jack ReedJack ReedTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (D-R.I.) and Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinFCC needs to help services for the deaf catch up to videoconferencing tech Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa MORE (D-Iowa). The Student Loan Affordability Act, S. 953, would freeze need-based student loan interest rates for two years while Congress works on a long-term solution. Reed said lawmakers need the extra time because Congress is not set to consider the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Reed and Harkin's bill is fully paid for over 10 years by closing three tax loopholes. Specifically, it would limit the use of tax-deferred retirement accounts, close a corporate offshore tax loophole by restricting “earnings stripping” by expatriated entities, and close an oil and gas industry tax loophole by treating oil from tar sands the same as other petroleum products.

Last week the House passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act. Under that bill federal student loan rates would equal the rate on the 10-year Treasury note plus 2.5 percent. The rate would be variable, and would reset each year, although students could package all their loans into a fixed-rate loan after graduation. The GOP bill also caps the rate at 8.5 percent for most students.

GOP lawmakers have said Democrats should agree to their bill because President Obama had a similar proposal in his 2014 budget. But Reid has said the House bill wouldn’t pass the Senate because it would potentially be worse for students than doing nothing.

“The House Republican proposal is a non-starter in the Senate because it would leave middle-class families with the uncertainty of seeing their rates fluctuate wildly year to year, potentially having to pay thousands more from one year to the next,” Reid said Friday. “The House Republican plan would cost students an average of almost $2,000 more in interest than if we did nothing at all — or about $6,500 more in interest than the current rate.”

Also on Friday, President Obama called on Congress to pass a student loan bill.