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57 Days...


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Think of the great moments of American public policy: the creation of land grant colleges, the G.I. Bill, providing student loans -- all directed toward increasing access to higher education.

In Congress, one of my top priorities has been to continue the work of making college more affordable and accessible. In 2007, I helped write the law that lowered interest rates on federal subsidized Stafford loans to 3.4 percent, saving today's typical student borrower a couple thousand dollars.

Yet if Congress fails to act now, interest rates will double to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012. This would apply to any student taking out a new loan after July 1, whether to start college or to stay in school.

We have 57 days left to prevent this -- 57 days to prevent students from facing higher costs when they start classes next year, 57 days to prevent 143,892 New Jersey students from paying an additional $115 million in borrowing costs over the next year alone.

Next week, the U.S. Senate will be voting on the Stop the Rate Hike Act of 2012, of which I am a cosponsor in the House. The bill would keep loan rates at 3.4 percent, and it would pay for the cost by reining in just a fraction of the taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil.

Among recent college graduates who have taken out student loans, the average borrower owes $25,000 in education debt. Meanwhile, the five biggest oil companies reported $33.5 billion in profits in the last three months alone. Who needs our support more: the student, or Big Oil?

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