Bill would lower loan interest rates

by Jamie VanGeest

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., is trying to reverse the effects of the Deficit Reduction Act by making a bill of her own.

McCollum and a fellow member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce co-sponsored the Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act of 2006 with other Democrats from the committee.

The bill would reduce the interest rate for subsidized student loans from 6.8 percent, the amount approved in the Deficit Reduction Act passed earlier this year, to 3.4 percent. McCollum estimated this would save a student borrower $5,600 in interest payments over the lifetime of the loans.

“This is an effort for Democrats to say college affordability needs to be a priority,” said Brittny McCarthy, education committee staff member for McCollum.

To get the word out about college affordability, the committee created an online forum, which opened Monday. The forum is a site where students, parents, members of Congress and college staff members can comment on higher education costs.

Students can submit a comment of less than 500 words or a video testimony of less than three minutes.

“It’s an easy way to share your opinion and hear what other students have to say,” McCarthy said.

Tuition and fees increased by 40 percent at four-year public institutions from 2001 to 2006, according to the College Board.

The Deficit Reduction Act made $12 billion in cuts to financial aid, the largest cut to the program in history, according to McCollum’s office.

The Reverse the Raid bill was created in response to the Deficit Reduction Act, which President George W. Bush signed in February, and to the push by the U.S. House to renew the Higher Education Act.

John Engelen, the University’s director of federal relations, said McCollum’s bill would be beneficial if passed, but said he isn’t sure it will pass quickly.

“I’m not sure if it will (pass) in this current budget environment in D.C.,” Engelen said.

He said the bill is beneficial because it keeps the discussion about student-aid programs going.

First-year student Jonathan Miller said there are more important things the government can spend money on than higher education.

“For example, we could cut military spending in half and use it for universal heath care,” Miller said.

He also said that no matter how high costs get, students are willing to pay to receive a college education.