Having rallied with Rhode Islanders to prevent a doubling of a key student loan interest rate before the July 1 deadline, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Rhode Island Student Loan Authority (RISLA) Executive Director Charles Kelley applauded today's passage of legislation to avoid this increase. In late April, Langevin and Kelley joined students to send a message about the damage that would result from allowing the interest rate of subsidized Stafford loans to rise from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act, which passed the House today, contained a provision to block the rate hike.
"Today's vote signifies that the voices of thousands of Rhode Island students, their families and millions of Americans have been heard. This result is a victory for them and for our economy," said Langevin, who helped lower the interest rate on these need-based loans in legislation he supported in 2007 that reduced it to the current level. "The average Rhode Island student is already burdened by more than $26,000 in debt. Forcing an estimated 43,000 young people in our state to pay an average of $1,000 more by letting this rate double would have been unconscionable. I'm pleased that those who wanted to create a false choice by gutting health services for low-income families in exchange for keeping the rate low have relented and allowed us to reach a compromise.
"Still, we should not be fooled into thinking our college affordability issues have been solved, particularly with recent cuts to the student loan program. We must, therefore, continue our work to maintain and expand this critical lifeline for so many students from middle class and low-income families.
"The economic value to the country of making higher education affordable to all students cannot be overstated. We need a highly-skilled workforce to ensure our businesses can innovate and compete globally, and the significantly higher unemployment rate for Americans with a high school diploma or less reflects the importance of access to further education and training."
"At Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, we encourage students to be responsible about how much they borrow and to explore their lowest cost options before turning elsewhere," said Kelley. "We are very pleased that students from high-need families will continue to have a lower interest rate on their subsidized Stafford loans, affording them lower monthly student loan payments and a lower overall debt burden."