Dubya Doublespeak on Halving Student Loan Rates

Bill Scher

The House is expected to pass legislation today that will cut some student loan rates in half, saving the average student $4,420 without costing taxpayers a dime.

This is a critical first step in making college affordable for all students and working families. As the Wall Street Journal reported on October 25th, paying for college has gotten harder under the Bush Administration:

The College Board’s latest annual reports … find that over the past five years tuition at public four-year universities has soared by a record-breaking 35% when adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, spending on Pell Grants — the biggest source of federal aid for low-income students — fell for the first time in six years.

“There is no question that the bulk of the impact of that is falling on lower- and lower-middle-income students,” says Donald Heller, a Pennsylvania State University professor who has studied access to higher education. “They are getting killed on the aid side, and they are getting killed on the tuition side.”

Yet President Bush is still siding with big lending banks over our students, and unsurprisingly, pretending to care about students.

CongressDaily reports today:

The Bush administration Tuesday declared its opposition to the House Democrats’ proposed cutting of student loan interest rates, criticizing their legislation for helping borrowers after they graduate from college instead of while they are enrolled in school.

“Reducing student loan interest rates would direct federal subsidies to college graduates, not to students and their families who are struggling to meet current and future educational expenses,” the [Statement of Administration Policy] said.

Echoing the argument of House Republicans, the SAP also said the administration “would support efforts to direct savings to [provide] additional grant support for low-income students.”

That would mean support for increasing Pell Grants. The Pell Grants Bush and the Republican Congress just cut.

Further, it’s not a choice between cutting loan rates and increasing Pell Grants. We can do both.

In fact, Campaign for America’s Future is part of the Campaign for College Affordability, which will continue to press Congress to support our comprehensive four-point plan, so college will be in reach of every American family:

1. Increase funding for federal student aid programs, in particular a boost in the Pell Grant award to $5,100.

2. Cut interest rates in half on all federal student loans.

3. Promote debt management programs including income contingent repayment and loan forgiveness options for teachers, nurses, social workers and others in fields of public service.

4. Boost competition for loans to provide parents and students more options and better rates.

With a White House still intent on leaving students behind, the fight for affordable college education will rage on. To win, we’re going to need your voice.

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