Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) voted to move forward on a bill that would keep federally subsidized student loan rates from doubling in July -- affecting more than 100,000 Washington students. The action to advance the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013 (S. 953) failed by a vote of 51-46, short of the 60 votes needed to move to debate.
If Congress fails to act, student loan interest rates will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1st. According to the U.S. Department of Education, that would impact 104,863 students in Washington state who carry more than $390 million in subsidized Stafford Loans. The Project on Student Debt reports that Washington state college seniors who graduated in 2011 had an average of $22,244 in student loan debt.
"We cannot allow access to an affordable, quality education to slip away from American students," said Cantwell, who with the help of Pell Grants was the first member of her family to graduate college. "This bill is a common-sense plan that would prevent 104,000 Washington students from seeing their loan payments double next month. I'm disappointed that this bill did not advance today, but I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass legislation in the next three weeks that will prevent student loans from skyrocketing. We need thousands of educated workers to fill high-skilled jobs. Now is not the time to make a college education harder to access for middle-class families."
Last June, Cantwell joined a majority of colleagues to secure a one year extension of current student loan rates to keep subsidized Stafford student loan interest rates from doubling. The provision, which expires on July 1, was included as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (H.R. 4348). In the last Congress Cantwell was a cosponsor of S.2051 to prevent the rate hike and permanently cap the subsidized Stafford student loan interest rate at 3.4 percent.