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Letter to the House Education and Workforce Committee on Student Loan Interest Rates

May 15, 2013

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the 3 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we wish to offer our views on the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911) scheduled for markup on May 16.

We commend the efforts of the Committee for its work in addressing the impending increase in student loan rates. The inclusion, in H.R. 1911, of a cap on the proposed variable rate is an important provision to ensure that students are protected from exceedingly high interest rates.  Further, we appreciate that the bill does not eliminate the in-school interest exemption.  We have concerns about proposals that seek profits for deficit reduction at the expense of students struggling to address the substantial costs of postsecondary education.  We look forward to addressing the full range of issues related to student aid as the committee moves forward with a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

NEA believes that anyone who is qualified and interested in post-secondary education should have the opportunity to attend, regardless of ability to pay. Higher education is the path to prosperity in the 21st century—for individual students and for our nation as a whole.  Making college affordable needs to be an essential part of our nation’s commitment to educational excellence.

Efforts to help students and families with college costs are essential given that:

  • Approximately 60% of students must borrow to attend college and increasing the costs of borrowing will simply prevent some from being able to pursue higher education.
  • Adding to their student loan debt burden will not only harm students, but will impact our economy, as those who face crushing debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses or support families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic growth.
  • Last year the total amount of borrowing eclipsed the $1 trillion mark.  Of our nation’s 37 million students with outstanding debt, 35% are behind on their loans; a number which will only grow with the cost of borrowing.

We look forward to continuing this dialogue with the Committee on further efforts to make college affordable for all who want to pursue it.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations