On Wednesday, the Senate's procedural vote on a bill that would freeze a low interest rate on one type of federal student loan for another year failed to advance, by a vote of 51-49. The bill also would have allowed lawmakers more time to author a long-term strategy for setting all educational loan interest rates.
The loan in question is the Stafford loan, on which the federal government has slowly lowered interest rates for the past several years. Stafford loans are available to students with financial need and are taken out by millions of students every year. The rate for the past two years, 3.4 percent, expired July 1.
The Senate missed that July 1 deadline for passing legislation to prevent student loan rates from doubling, but said it expects to pass a bipartisan proposal in July that would take effect retroactively. This vote was the first attempt at a new proposal, and its failure to pass affects 7 million undergraduates who are expected to take out Stafford loans this upcoming academic year.
Senate Democrats were split on the issue, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) criticizing Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) for sponsoring a bill with Republicans that would tie federal education loan interest rates to market loans without imposing a formal cap on how high those rates could go in the future.
What's next? Back to negotiations. The lawmakers have until August recess to pass an educational interest rates bill before students have to sign their loans for the upcoming school year. Please, Senate, get it together and reach a consensus to prevent interest rates from doubling.