M/sunny
50°
M/sunny
Hi 51° | Lo 35°

Shaheen calls for Washington action on federal student loan interest rates

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen shakes hands with MB Lufkin of Granite State College (left) before taking part in a student loans round table at Granite State College in Concord; Friday, June 14, 2013. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1.

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen shakes hands with MB Lufkin of Granite State College (left) before taking part in a student loans round table at Granite State College in Concord; Friday, June 14, 2013. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1.

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (center) takes part in a discussion on student loans at Granite State College in Concord on Friday, June 14, 2013. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1. Also pictured are Granite State College president Todd Leach (left) and student Anne Dubois.

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (center) takes part in a discussion on student loans at Granite State College in Concord on Friday, June 14, 2013. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1. Also pictured are Granite State College president Todd Leach (left) and student Anne Dubois.

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (center) takes part in a discussion on student loans at Granite State College in Concord on Friday, June 14, 2013. Shaheen spoke to students at the University of New Hampshire on Monday, February 24, 2014, about upcoming legislation dealing with student loans.

    Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (center) takes part in a discussion on student loans at Granite State College in Concord on Friday, June 14, 2013. Shaheen spoke to students at the University of New Hampshire on Monday, February 24, 2014, about upcoming legislation dealing with student loans.

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen shakes hands with MB Lufkin of Granite State College (left) before taking part in a student loans round table at Granite State College in Concord; Friday, June 14, 2013. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1.
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (center) takes part in a discussion on student loans at Granite State College in Concord on Friday, June 14, 2013. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans is set to double from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1. Also pictured are Granite State College president Todd Leach (left) and student Anne Dubois.
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (center) takes part in a discussion on student loans at Granite State College in Concord on Friday, June 14, 2013. Shaheen spoke to students at the University of New Hampshire on Monday, February 24, 2014, about upcoming legislation dealing with student loans.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen told a crowd at Granite State College yesterday that the need has perhaps never been greater to make higher education affordable for Americans from all walks of life.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion two weeks before interest rates on federal student loans are set to double, the Democrat warned that inaction in Washington will prevent thousands of Granite State students from graduating.

“By 2018, New Hampshire is going to need 43,000 graduates in the STEM subjects, so how are we going to get all those young people we need in those fields?” she asked, referring to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “We’ve got to make sure they have access to higher education.”

If Congress fails to act, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans for future students will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent – equal to the current unsubsidized rate.

Subsidized loans are granted to students with designated financial need, and the interest on them is paid off by the government until the student graduates; unsubsidized loans are not limited to low-income students but interest on them is not covered by the government. The new rates would only apply to future students who take out loans.

Student debt has ballooned to more than $1 trillion nationally, and it has become a major policy dispute in Washington. In May, the House passed a Republican-led bill that would overhaul the entire loan structure, pegging rates to market trends, meaning they would fluctuate over time rather than stay fixed as they are now. The Obama Administration, citing opposition to setting a fluid rate, has threatened to veto the measure.

The Senate, meanwhile, has failed to pass both Republican- and a Democrat-sponsored bills. The Republican bill would tie Stafford loans and PLUS loans, another type of federal assistance, to the 10-year U.S. Treasury rate, and would have left them fixed; while the Democratic measure, supported by President Obama (though he has also outlined goals that align in ways with the Senate Republican bill), would have extended the current 3.4 percent rate for two years.

New Hampshire has a big stake in the debate because its students in 2011 had the highest average student debt load in the country, at $32,440, according to a report released last fall from the Institute for College Access and Success.

“That’s an issue I think affects us all, not only for our students,” said Granite State President Todd Leach. “It’s also an issue for our workforce, its an issue for our economy – there are graduate students paying off student loans rather than spending money in New Hampshire.”

Shaheen, who voted for the Democratic Senate bill and against its Republican counterpart, warned yesterday that the looming rate hike would have a “critical impact” on students. She described the debt debate as one about whether students from all socio-economic backgrounds have access to higher education.

“But it’s really a bigger issue,” she said. “And that is whether we’re going to have the skilled workforce we need not only to compete with the rest of the country, as the state of New Hampshire, but really with the rest of the world.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, voted for her party’s Senate bill, and said yesterday in an email that she believes “Congress and the president will find common ground to reach an agreement before July 1.”

“I want a solution that provides students and families with the certainty they need to plan for their educational financing while simultaneously protecting taxpayers,” she said.

If an agreement isn’t reached, some local college aid officers worry there could be unintended consequences, such as students taking more private loans, which may have attractive interest rates but do not have the same benefits as federal aid, including an income-based repayment program and potential loan forgiveness after a set number of years.

“We are very fearful that these families are going to say no to these unsubsidized loans that are already at 6.8 and they’re going to jump over to the private loans that have wonderful rates right now, and they’re fixed – however they have none of the benefits,” said June Schlabach, director of financial aid at Plymouth State University.

Shaheen told the crowd of about 40 people that inaction will lead to both fewer students gaining access to college and fewer students completing their education once they arrive on campus. And that’s unfortunate, she suggested, because having an education is as important as it has ever been.

“Over the years since the recession there have been some questions raised about whether the cost of higher education is worth it,” she said. “For anybody who has any doubts about is that degree worth it, the answer is absolutely.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

Legacy Comments13

Does not seem to matter to many folks that UNH is #4 nationwide expense wise for college students. Does not seem to matter that since 1989, college tuition at UNH has gone up. We have evidence all the time of the waste at UNH. The latest logo flap is evidence of how UNH wastes taxpayer money. We also have read about what profs get paid,sports coaches etc. I have heard of quite a few students that are going out of state to attend state colleges because they are cheaper even if they are paying out of state tuition. That trend will continue. Also have read that our community colleges are also some of the highest tuitions in the country. NH charges a lot for education. The question should be why other states are able to manage a lot better.

Politicians who like the limelight do very little actual legislating. Michele Bachman was on tv constantly and in he 6 years only put out one bill, something called save our light bulb or other. Ayotte was the same when she was AG, constantly hogging the camera.

Wait..Ayotte hogged the camera? This after 8 years of the Gov Photo Op??

an elderly women should not make up stories

The whole subject of students loans is a self perpetuating example of a Catch 22. The whole student loan program was founded with very altruistic ideals, to make an education affordable. However in the process of making money easier to get, schools saw this as a golden goose. Now they could raise the cost of an education because money was easier to get. The start of skyrocketing tuition was directly linked to this loan source. The cost of tuition has outpaced all other costs ten fold. The gotcha is that if this funding source is reduced the ones with the greatest needs are going to bear the brunt. It will force down tuition but not immediately. I think this will be driven also by the popularity of the 2 year degrees at technical schools and declining enrollment in the more antiquated traditional schools. You change with the times or perish.

The other day the Monitor had an article showing that Senator Kelly Ayotte made frequent appearances on TV talk shows while Jeanne Shaheen had little to no appearances. What they didn’t get into was the reason for that. Senator Kelly Ayotte is articulate, attractive, quick on her feet and answers the questions directly while Jeanne Shaheen has none of those attributes. It is likely the democrat party would prefer that Shaheen would stay away from TV talk shows in order to avoid embarrassment.

It's likely that Sen Ayotte needs the press exposure as she has the least political experience and very limited record. Her handlers want her center stage popping up here and there. I think she could be a good Senator but it will take more than a good PR machine, she will need to stand on her own and not become one of those reliable GOP only voters. No party is ever right all the time, believe it or not.

I am not sure that people should be looking to develop a "political" record, "politics" are the issue. It would be refreshing to see folks just representing what they think the constituency who elected them really want. I think in Kelly's case, the attacks on here are pure hate speech and the politics of personal destruction.

It looks like the Monitor is beginning its campaign mode in support of democrat rubber stamp Jeanne Shaheen. Just look at the bias in the reporting on the votes of our 2 senators: Shaheen, who voted for the Democratic Senate bill and against its Republican counterpart Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, voted for her party’s Senate bill My question is why didn’t the Monitor report it fairly and say that Shaheen a democrat, voted for her party’s Senate bill? I already know the answer to that question and that is Jeanne Shaheen is a liberal democrat partisan and votes the party line as much as she is told to. The Monitor don't want you to know that. We need to vote Shaheen out in 2014.

Maybe the changes at the Monitor will bring along a little more intellectual honesty or at least stop the Monitor folks from allowing their emotions to eclipse the facts, diversity of opinion and of course intellectual honesty. But then again, maybe the changes won't impact anything. It will be interesting to see.

Liberals just don't get it. Education has turned into a profit making industry. Nine month wonders employed at UNH, teach part time and earn upwards of $150,000. The UNH system employees countless adjuncts who are underpaid at the same time and they do the heavy lifting. The focus on everyone getting a college education is also leaving many college graduates without opportunities as the job market is the weakest it has been since the Great Depression. What about encouraging students to go to trade schools, tech schools, etc. Not everyone can be a white collar worker. Shaheen is playing politics, 1% or 2% interest is not the issue, the price of education is the issue. It is stunning that progressives rail against the profits and excess of corporations but not higher education.

We will begin to see our students go out of state to attend other state colleges. In most cases it most likely will be cheaper to go out of state and pay the out of state tuition. The waste at UNH is obvious. The idiot logo issue made that clear.. The folks do not care how the money is spent, and they have no desire to seek out the best prices for the best services. They have had a steady stream of taxpayer money all these years, and have been allowed to do what they want with it with no oversight. Like the teenager with the parent's credit card that goes on a spending spree.

Interesting that not one word was written about "lowering" the cost of education. Even the "local college aid officers" just say, go barrow more money somewhere else. UNH top professor makes $196K with a hockey coach making ~$300K...... Lets us not forget that NH has the highest average student debt load in the country, at $32,440. That is the price of a new car with a "5 year repayment loan". These people buy a BMW but they scream they can't pay the education loan cost..... U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asked where 43,000 graduates in the STEM subjects will be gotten. Has she not been paying attention at work, we will IMPORT them under the new immigration program.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.