Democrats help students fight soaring interest rates

By Meagan Steiner U-wire

PHILADELPHIA – Some Democrats in Congress want students to help them “Reverse the Raid on Student Aid.”

That’s the name of a bill introduced earlier this month by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). The legislation would cut interest rates in half for federal student loans.

Last week, the Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Work Force launched a forum on their Web site that encourages students and parents to share written and video testimonials on the importance of college affordability to increase popular support for the bill.

Beginning July 1, the bill would reduce Federal Stafford Loan interest rates to 3.4 percent for need-based loans taken out by students and to 4.25 percent for loans taken out by parents for undergraduate students, half the current levels.

The Reverse the Raid bill would cancel interest-rate increases set to take effect July 1.

Students with federal loans owe an average of $17,500, but this number will drop by $5,600 with Reverse the Raid, according to a press release from Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Work Force.

Proponents of the bill hope that their online forum will help it to advance quickly.

“The thing that moves members of Congress and senators to act faster than anything else is when they hear from their own constituents,” said Tom Kiley, a spokesman for the committee’s Democrats.

Larry Zaglaniczny, director of congressional relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, an advocacy group, said the forum represents an effort to “use whatever technology is at hand to increase public support and public pressure for important legislation.”

And the forum has received dozens of submissions, Kiley said. Though set to close tomorrow, it will likely remain open for an additional week, he added.

Miller views the forum as a way for more citizens to participate in financial aid legislation, Kiley said.

Tom Culligan, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) who is vice chairman of the Education and the Work Force Committee and opposes the Raid bill, said proponents haven’t named a source for the $30 billion that the legislation could cost over five years.

The Reverse the Raid bill “set an artificially low interest rate and didn’t talk about where the money was going to come from,” Culligan said. “If the funding was available, I don’t think anyone would be opposed to that.”

College sophomore and Pennsylvania College Democrats Vice President Nathan Hake said that the statewide organization is urging individual chapters to back the bill.