By Jennifer Wang
Months ago, Sen. Jack Reed, a longstanding champion for students, introduced the Responsible Student Loan Solutions Act, a bill that would have prevented interest rates on all new federal Stafford subsidized loans from doubling on July 1. Like many of the other proposals out there, Sen. Reed’s bill pegs interest rates to the market. So how is his bill different?
For starters, Sen. Reed recognized the need to get the conversation started about how much money the government is projected to make off of students. The federal student loan program is now on track to earn $184 billion for the government. Few have been talking about whether this is a good thing. It’s not.
The federal student loan program is here to make it possible for millions of students to attend college, not to generate revenue.
Congress is looking to strike a deal on student loan interest rates and they’re floating ideas that are long-term and either budget neutral or actually earn more profit off of students. But folks are ignoring what that actually means. If we make the switch to long-term solution that is budget neutral at a time when “budget neutral” means $184 billion in profit, it means that lower interest rates now would simply mean higher interest rates from the pockets of future students later. In just a few years, our younger siblings would be paying thousands more to borrow money for school, we would lock in the profits Congress makes for years into the future. That’s not right, and it makes us feel like this:
The Responsible Student Loan Solutions Act caps interest rates at 6.8 percent. It also allows low-income borrowers to borrow up to the limit in subsidized loans, which would lower their costs. And, the bill provides borrowers with an opportunity to refinance their loans for lower interest rates.
Here’s the kicker: Sen. Reed’s bill would make zero profit off students rather than $184 billion, because he understands that the government should help students get a degree, not make money off of them.
We need bold, big ideas as we prepare for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. We need conversation starters. This bill is one of them.