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SPOTLIGHT
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Student loans

Published on -7/9/2013, 9:32 AM

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Outside of entrepreneurs and salespeople, getting a college degree is almost a prerequisite for achieving the American dream.

That is one of the primary reasons Congress long has recognized the importance not only of subsidized student loans, but having the interest rates lower than other types of capital costs. Most lawmakers in Washington comprehend the logic of continuing the practice. But the dysfunctionality going on inside the Capitol is making even this a difficult achievement.

Once both chambers couldn't fashion an agreement, the July 1 deadline came and went -- and interest rates of future Stafford loans doubled from 3.4 to 6.8. The result will be an average $2,600 additional costs passed along to students.

House Republicans made the commonsense case for tying Stafford loan to market interest rates, including a cap on how high the rates could go. They had enough votes to pass the bill.

The Senate is having problems with it, however. Democrats in that chamber worry that if and when the economy improves, interest rates will skyrocket. And, they're probably correct in that assumption. American consumers have enjoyed historically low rates for a number of years. The only direction they can go is higher.

But that shouldn't prevent the Senate from passing something. In our minds, having caps in place would prevent students from experiencing too rough a time upon graduation.

Students will face mountains of debt, regardless. Colleges and universities annually hike tuition rates higher than inflation would suggest. This already forces young adults to borrow more and more each year. There doesn't appear any solution to that vicious cycle.

The best students can hope for is some sort of guarantee they won't be gouged with interest payments. The Senate needs to recognize that, and in some manner other than attempting to extend the former law for another year.

Even in the intensely partisan gridlock known as Congress nowadays, there should be consensus not to burden tomorrow's leaders with even more debt. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., needs to rally his troops and make it happen.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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