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Students deserve better loan rates

Making a college education more affordable for all those who wish to pursue it is in the best interest of our country. America depends on an educated population in order to remain successful and prosperous.

In any given year, about 20 million students are in college and 60 percent of them have to take out student loans. Currently, Congress determines student loan interest rates. On July 1, millions of student loan borrowers saw their interest rates double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, because, despite action by the House, the Senate did not act.

Our students deserve better. We need a permanent solution that doesn’t depend on Congress setting interest rates for students across America.

That is why I supported the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, which ties new student loans to a market-based interest rate. This legislation, which passed the House in May, gives certainty to our students and eliminates the need for short-term fixes that often become highly politicized. The House bill resets interest rates once a year ensuring students can take advantage of lower rates when available and allows borrowers to lock in rates after graduation.

Unfortunately, Senate Democrats chose to make it harder for students to pay for college by not passing this legislation or any alternative before the July 1 deadline. As a result, student loan interest rates doubled to 6.8 percent. The federal government should not hold students hostage while manipulating interest rates in order to pay for bureaucratic government projects like Obamacare.

Now is not the time for struggling college students to see the cost of their education increase. Our focus must be on expanding access to higher education and enabling our students to achieve the American Dream of earning a college degree.

The House of Representatives is the only chamber of Congress that has acted to solve this problem before the July 1 deadline, despite President Obama’s 2014 budget proposing a similar plan. It’s now up to Democrats in the Senate to decide whether they will take action on a long-term solution to give our students and their families the relief they need.

Rep. Doc Hastings represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District, including part of Okanogan County.

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