High cost of inaction

By:  Aki Soga

Burlington Free Press Masthead

Congress once again is showcasing its inability to serve the interests of the people they were elected to serve. 

This time, through the sheer force of inaction, the members of Congress have allowed the interest rate on federal student loans to double overnight. 

Students who were counting on borrowing money for college at 3.4 percent woke up Monday to face paying 6.8 percent for new subsidized Stafford loans. 

National leaders in virtually every field, from the president on down, have been stressing the importance of a post-secondary education in today’s economy. 

As Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told the Free Press, “We tell our young people, if you want to make it into the middle class, you have to get a college education.” 

Yet those who aspire to a college education already face ever-rising tuition and fees that threaten to put a degree beyond the reach of more and more Americans.

Putting up one more barrier is an insult to students and their families.

Even lowering the interest rate back to 3.4 percent is a temporary and insufficient fix for improving college affordability.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has the right idea: Tie the interest on student loans to the favorable rates the Federal Reserve charges on shortterm loans to major financial institutions, currently 0.75 percent.

Washington seems more than willing to bailout banks that fell victim to their own speculative excesses. Yet the same policymakers are unwilling to wholeheartedly embrace higher education as a true investment in the nation’s future.

Senators have pledged to take up a fix as soon as they return from this week’s Independence Day break, lowering the rate retroactively to July 1.

That Congress saw no urgency in fixing student loans before going on break is yet another triumph of political partisanship over governing.

Americans have been living with a divided Washington in which making sure the other party gains no advantage — no matter how small — has become more important than governing the country.

Too often, the result has been that even legislation with broad support fails because the other side might be able to claim some credit or, worse yet, blame can be pinned on a political opponent.

This is no way to govern.

Congress must start acting as if higher education truly is critical to this nation’s continued prosperity and economic