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Young Americans face a roadblock

Friday, April 05, 2013 - Updated: 4:10 PM

The problem with kicking the can down the road is, sooner or later, you once again come upon the can. Thus, Congress finds itself facing anew a debate it held just one year ago: How to keep interest rates on federal loans for college educations from doubling.

It's a familiar scenario: From the debt ceiling, to the fiscal cliff, to the Farm Bill, Washington's leaders repeatedly fail to agree on anything more than short-term, stop-gap fixes. Such crisis-to-crisis legislating is as frustrating as it is fruitless.

Frustrated today are college students and their families, who could see the current 3.4 percent interest rate climb to 6.8 percent come July 1. Congress and President Obama should act quickly to prevent such a hit.

Outstanding college debt already stands at an estimated $1 trillion -- more even than credit card debt. Saddling low- and middle-income students with higher borrowing costs will only add to this bubble, making it more difficult for graduates entering a challenging job market to make payments. Those who do find jobs will have less to save for cars, homes and family.

Still, neither party's spending proposal in Congress has specifically budgeted for the estimated $6 billion it would cost to maintain the lower interest rate. A Democratic bill would cap the 3.4 percent rate, but Republicans would keep the savings to reduce spending. It is up to President Obama, in his executive budget due April 10, to lead.

Families, too, must make their voices heard. While students are rightly urged to weigh carefully how much and whether to borrow for college, higher interest rates further increase the costs in that cost-benefit analysis.

Colleges and universities are consistent enough at regularly boosting the price tag of a higher education without federal loan programs adding to the burden. Doubling federal loan interest rates could throw an unfortunate roadblock across the path to middle class for millions of young Americans. Congress can do better.

-- The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

     

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