On Tuesday, Senate leaders announced that they reached a deal to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, but they are still determining whether to attach that “deal” to a measure that would reauthorize highway programs, which is still being negotiated. Congress must take action on both issues – student loan interest rates and highway programs – before June 30th.
The agreement reached yesterday would use two pension-related maneuvers to offset the cost of the student loan bill, as well as a Republican proposal to reduce the amount of time that students are eligible for an in-school interest subsidy. The idea to change this eligibility had been included in the President’s FY 2013 budget request, with direction that the savings would be used to shore up a shortfall in Pell grants, a federal student aid program for low- to middle-income students.
The Office of Federal Relations is monitoring this closely as we are concerned that by taking this offset off the table, the Pell Grant program may experience a funding shortfall sooner than anticipated. It could also stymie Senate efforts to increase the annual Pell Grant award from $5,550 up to $5,635.