Valdosta Daily Times

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July 19, 2013

Senators ready to restore lower college loan rates

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan compromise on student loans promises better deals for students and parents over the next few years but could spell higher rates as the economy improves.

The Senate deal pegs the interest rates on new loans to the financial markets and was expected to come to a vote next week, well before students returning to campus this fall had to sign their loan agreements.

Under the deal, undergraduates this fall could borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate. Graduate students would have access to loans at 5.4 percent, and parents would be able to borrow at 6.4 percent.

Those rates would climb as the economy improves and it becomes more expensive for the government to borrow money.

The compromise heads off the doubling of rates on some students loans, which would cost students an extra $2,600.

“We have gone through weeks of negotiations and we have an agreement,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama was “glad to see that a compromise seems to be coming together.”

And Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said students benefited: “For every one of them, the interest rates on their loans will be lower.”

At least for now. The compromise could be a good deal for students through the 2015 academic year, but then interest rates are expected to climb above where they were when students left campus in the spring.

Even in announcing the compromise, it was clear the negotiations were dicey.

“While this is not the agreement any of us would have written, and many of us would like to have seen something quite different, I believe that we have come a very long way on reaching common ground,” Durbin told reporters.

Moments later, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, said he would revisit the whole agreement this fall, when his panel takes up a rewrite of the Higher Education Act.

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