The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 28, 2013

Neither party has cash for student loan rate fix

(Continued)

But so far, the money isn't there. And if the committee wants to keep the rates where they are, they will have to find a way to pay for them, either through cuts to programs in the budget or by adding new taxes.

"Spending is measured in numbers, not words," said Jason Delisle, a former Republican staffer on the Senate Budget Committee and now director of the New America Foundation's Federal Budget Project. "The Murray budget does not include funding for any changes to student loans."

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that of the almost $113 billion in new student loans the government made this year, more than $38 billion will be lost to defaults, even after Washington collects what it can through wage garnishments.

The net cost to taxpayers after most students pay back their loans with interest is $5.7 billion. If the rate increases, Washington will be collecting more interest from new students' loans.

But those who lobbied lawmakers a year ago said they were pessimistic before Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney both came out in support of keeping the rates low.

"We were at this point and we knew this issue was looming. But it wasn't anything we had any real traction with," said Tobin Van Ostern, deputy director of Campus Progress at the liberal Center for American Progress. "At this point, I didn't think we'd prevent them from doubling."

This time, he's looking at the July 1 deadline with the same concern.

"Having a deadline does help. It's much easier to deal with one specific date," Van Ostern said. "But if Congress can't come together ... interest rates are going to double. There tends to be a tendency for inaction."

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