Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, who won the support of many students by trying to amend the Senate student loan rate legislation that passed yesterday, made this announcement about why he voted for the bill:
“… My main goal throughout this process was to make sure we got students the best deal possible, which is why I supported this compromise. I voted for this legislation because it will keep rates down for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota students and their families now, and it includes a cap on interest rates.
Now, this was a compromise, and like all compromises, there were some things in this bill that I didn’t like. I still believe we need to address college affordability in a comprehensive way, and I intend to keep working on this issue because students shouldn’t be saddled with insurmountable debt when they graduate.”
Franken and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., wanted to use profits from the federal student loan program for the Pell Grant, but his announcement says that amendment “never got a vote.” Another amendment would have lowered the rate cap, but that never passed.
Republican Rep. John Kline of Minnesota — chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee — issued this statement after the Senate passed a student-loan-rate bill yesterday that was similar to the House’s:
“For more than a year Republicans have been fighting for a long-term solution to the student loan interest rate problem, and I am pleased we finally have a Senate agreement worthy of public support. The legislation approved today reflects the policies and priorities of the House-passed Smarter Solutions for Students Act. This is a victory for students and taxpayers, and I look forward to the bill’s swift passage in the House.”
For more about Franken, here’s the rest of the senator’s press release:
Sen. Franken has long been a champion of making the cost of college more affordable for students and their families. Last month he introduced with several of his colleagues the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013. The bill, which failed to meet the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster, extended and fully paid for an additional year of the 3.4 percent interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans, giving Congress the opportunity to find a long-term and sustainable solution.
In addition, Sen. Franken is a cosponsor of the Student Loan Affordability Act—which received majority support but was also filibustered in the Senate by the minority—that would have locked in the 3.4 percent interest rate on new subsidized Stafford loans for two years. He also cosponsored the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which would allow students to pay the same interest rate on their student loans that banks pay on the money they borrow from the Federal Reserve’s discount window, currently 0.75 percent.
“Before this compromise was negotiated, I cosponsored two bills that would have kept the interest rate for subsidized Stafford loans at 3.4 percent so Congress could have time to work out an even better long-term solution,” said Sen. Franken. “And I was very frustrated that while we got a majority of votes in the Senate, we couldn’t get the 60 votes necessary to break a Republican filibuster.”
He is also the author of the Understanding the True Cost of College Act, which would clarify what financial aid families will receive from a school and create standard terms for the aid offered so that students can accurately compare offers from different schools. Currently, schools do not use standard definitions or names for different types of aid, so students and families often report having difficulty differentiating between grant aid, which does not need to be repaid, and student loans, which do need to be repaid.
Lastly, Sen. Franken is the author of the Accelerated Learning Act—which was recently incorporated into the Senate bill to replace the so-called “No Child Left Behind” law—that would help make college affordable by expanding access to accelerated learning models like AP, IB, dual enrollment, and early college high schools for low-income students. This would allow students to get college credit while in high school and earn their college degree more quickly.