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Student Groups Continue to Push to Stop Loan-Rate Hike

Coming off a win for student loans in the U.S. House, student groups were hopeful that the Senate would agree to stop the cost of Stafford loans from doubling in July. That didn't happen—at least this week. But many are hoping that a compromise will emerge once the posturing is over.

The legislation failed to pass a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday (See details in Politics K-12 blog and a recent story here for background on the issue.) With President Obama and Mitt Romney both speaking out in favor of the issue, and politicians on both side of the aisle expressing support, momentum for stopping the increase appears to be growing. The tricky part: How to pay for it.

Student groups are not giving up.

"We're definitely committed to this fight and are confident that we'll get there," says Jennifer Mishory, deputy director of the Young Invincibles, a Washington-based group advocating for issues important to young people. "Both sides now agree that we have a problem that needs fixing, but there's a continued dispute about the pay-for. We'll continue with our policy, organizing, and advocacy work around this issue until we see a measure passed that keeps the interest rate from doubling."

In a statement released Tuesday, Rich Williams, U.S. PIRG higher education advocate, said students were deeply disappointed by the Senate vote. The measure is a top concern to students as reflected in turnout at town hall meetings across the country and 500,000 signatures from supporters last week.

"The bottom line is that this is important to future graduates and their families, it is a top concern among students, and has support from across the political spectrum," said Williams. "The message to Congress is clear: Get it done. There are any number of ways to pay for this important extension of low-interest rates, and we urge members to work together, on behalf of the almost 7.5 million students facing increased debt, to find a bipartisan solution."

Others in the higher education community are confident.

"We're supportive of the bipartisan effort to keep interest rates low for student-loan borrowers and are optimistic lawmakers will reach a compromise on how to pay for it outside of any additional cuts to student aid," says Justin Draeger, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. NASFAA joined 40 organizations in signing a letter of support in favor of the measure, initiated by the American Council on Education on May 7.


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