Franken not sure if he’ll back student loan deal

Sen. Al Franken (left) and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, hosted a round table on senior issues in Minneapolis (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

U.S. Sen. Al Franken said today that he’s unsure whether he’ll vote for a compromise on the cost of new federal loans for college students. Senate leaders reached the deal earlier this week that would lower the interest rates in the short term, and tie the interest rate on Stafford student loans to the ten year Treasury bond.

Senate leaders say they hope to hold a vote on the bill next week and break an impasse over how to extend the program that benefits millions of low-income students.

Franken, a Democrat, was pushing for even lower interest rates for college students. He said his vote may hinge on whether the Senate adopts an amendment that steers any excess money generated from the new interest rate into a federal student aid program and not in the federal treasury.

“We shouldn’t be balancing the budget and balancing our debt on the backs of students,” Franken said. “We need to invest in students. I’m not sure exactly where it’s going to be when I get back to D.C.”

The House and Senate have been at odds for months over the best way to address student loans. Congress missed a July 1 deadline, prompting interest rates to spike. Roughly 7 million college students will be forced to pay thousands of dollars more on their loans if a deal isn’t reached.