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July 06. 2013 7:32PM

NH delegates made last-minute pitches to avoid student loan rate hike

Members of New Hampshire's congressional delegation lobbied hard for Congress to deal with student loan rates before they all went home for the July 4th recess, to no avail.

Each of the four lawmakers has sponsored separate legislation addressing the issue, but Congress could not reach agreement in time to keep interest rates on direct subsidized loans from doubling as of July 1.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., took to the Senate floor on June 27 to urge her colleagues to prevent the rate increase. She cited the case of a young Manchester woman enrolled in graduate school who has already accumulated $100,000 in college debt.

Shaheen said making college affordable is critical to growing the economy. "It's essential to creating jobs, it's essential to protecting the middle class, and it's essential to providing those future opportunities for our young people," she said.

That same day, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., co-sponsored the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, which would tie interest rates on all federal student loans to the 10-year Treasury note.

"Students and families need certainty to plan for how they will finance higher education," Ayotte said in a statement urging immediate action on the measure. "This bipartisan legislation is fair to students, parents and taxpayers."

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., sent a letter on June 25 to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, urging them to keep the House of Representatives in Washington until Congress acted on the student loan issue.

Noting New Hampshire graduates have the highest college debt burden in the country, she said that burden is "holding back growth throughout our economy as graduates defer investments in home ownership, job training and post-graduate education."

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., made the same plea in a one-minute speech on the House floor on June 27. "Families across our country and in my state of New Hampshire are depending on Congress to fix this problem," she said.

Despite those efforts, Congress went on vacation without addressing the issue.

Here's what New Hampshire members have sponsored:

. Shaheen, S. 1238 - Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013.

Would extend lower (3.4 percent) interest rate for undergraduate federal direct Stafford loans for one year.

. Ayotte, S. 1241 - Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act.

Would set interest rates for new loans on or after July 1 based on 10-year Treasury bills.

. Shea-Porter, H.R. 1433 - To Amend the Higher Education Act of 1965...; and H.R. 1595 - Student Loan Relief Act of 2013.

Both measures would extend the lower interest rate for federal direct Stafford loans until 2015.

. Kuster, H.R. 1595, Student Loan Relief Act of 2013 (see above).

swickham@unionleader.com


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