Federal Relations

Bipartisan Agreement Reached on Student Loan Rates

A bipartisan group of senators appear to have reached a deal that would provide a long-term fix to student loan rates, allowing them to increase up to a ceiling of 8.25 percent. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are supporting the compromise, which also would bring both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans under the same interest rate for the first time. The rate on unsubsidized loans doubled on July 1st from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

Under the new compromise plan, the rates for all undergraduate student loans would be harmonized. Currently, unsubsidized Stafford loans carry a higher rate than subsidized loans, which are available to lower-income borrowers. Under the bill, all undergraduate students would take out loans equal to the 10-year Treasury bond plus 2.05 percent — a deal that would bring student borrowing rates back down to 3.86 percent in 2013.

Graduate students, and loans taken out by parents on behalf of their children, would also get have their rates tied to Treasury bonds, and receive caps of 9.25 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively. Graduate loans would be set to Treasury bond rates plus 3.6 percent, and the so-called PLUS loans for parents would be equal to that rate plus 4.6 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that he hoped to move the bill quickly, before Congress breaks for the August recess – and before students and parents have to sign loan documents for the 2013-14 academic year.