Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) voted to move to proceed to consideration of a bill that would lower interest rates on Stafford Loans to 3.4 percent. The rate on Stafford Loans doubled to 6.8 percent on July 1 -- affecting more than 100,000 Washingtonians. The action to advance the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013 (S. 1238) failed by a vote of 51-49. The Act would keep the Stafford student loan interest rate at 3.4 percent for one year, while Congress works to find a long-term solution.
In Washington state, the doubling of new Stafford student loan interest rates to 6.8 percent will cost more than 100,000 students $83 million more in Stafford student loan payments. Keeping the rate at 3.4 percent is expected to save students $1,000, on average, over the life of their 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.
"Higher education is the gateway to economic opportunity and the sparkplug for our innovation economy," said Cantwell, a cosponsor of the bill who, with the help of Pell Grants, was the first member of her family to graduate college. "This bill would have kept the doors of higher education open for millions of students across America. I'm disappointed that this bill did not pass. At a time when our state needs thousands of workers for high-skilled jobs, we must ensure that the opportunity for college education remains accessible to 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 expired 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.