Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, made the following remarks after Senate passage of H.R. 1911, the Student Loan Act. Senator Cardin voted against the bill, considering the current 6.8 percent fixed interest rate to be better for Maryland students than the terms included in the bill.
“The federal government should not be making a profit off student loans. College is already too expensive. It is short-sighted to do anything that would put at risk the ability of students to start or continue their higher education. While the bipartisan deal voted upon in the Senate looks reasonable in the short term, the long-term view is not as positive. Treasury rates can only go up and as they do, according to this plan, student interest rates will go up and up. In Maryland, nearly 55 percent of students in the graduating Class of 2011 borrowed to pay for their education. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt at more than $1 trillion. It makes more sense to freeze rates at 3.4 percent until we can work out a viable, long-term fix to bring down the cost of higher education.
“I am deeply concerned about where we are headed in higher education. Last week, I sat down with Maryland students to talk about the cost of college. Most had previously needed loans to afford their tuition. Higher interest rates on federal student loans are essentially tax hikes on students and their families. We not only risk their future, but we shortchange the future of our national and regional economies by pricing certain Americans out of the college market. I applaud my colleagues for working through the gridlock and developing a bipartisan solution to the problem of high student loan interest rates. Compromise is the way the Senate should be working through the issues of concern to the American people. But I cannot support an agreement that provides short-term relief at the expense of adding to the long-term lack of affordability of higher education.”