Wednesday June 26, 2013

SOUTH BURLINGTON (AP) -- Vermont’s lone representative to the U.S. House warned Tuesday about what he sees as the need to prevent an increase in the interest rates charged on federal student loans.

If Congress doesn’t act, the interest rate charged on some student loans would increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1.

"Higher education is the gateway to the American middle class," Welch said. "As I travel around Vermont, I regularly hear from parents struggling to figure out how they will pay rising tuition bills. Congress should do its job and prevent that struggle from getting worse by passing legislation to block the doubling of Stafford student loan interest rates."

Congress is grappling with student loans for the second straight year, with each party pointing fingers at the other about who would shoulder the blame if rates double.

Last year, Congress voted to keep interest rates on subsidized Stafford student loans at 3.4 percent for another year during a heated presidential campaign. Without the attention, education advocates worried that the interest rate would revert back to former rates on July 1, leading to extra out-of-pocket costs for students.

Last year Welch helped beat back an effort to increase the rate.

Welch and others argue Congress shouldn’t make it more expensive for students to get an education.

But supporters of allowing the rate to increase counter the lower rate would cost the government billions of dollars a year.