House should focus on price, not payment

It seems that the government is just as confused on how to help students pay for higher education as we are in paying for it.

As House majority leader Nancy Pelosi and her posse of Democrats work to pass a landmark decision in their first 100 hours as the leaders, it has centered on the higher education legislation that went to vote yesterday.

The legislation (H.B. 5) proposes to cut the interest rate on federally subsidized loans borrowed by undergraduates. According to the legislation, the loan rates would eventually decrease from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent in a five-year process.

Sounds great, right? In 2011 (once the full cut has been phased in), a typical borrower could save nearly $4,400 in interest costs, according to the Dems.

While it’s nice to finally see that the House, or any level of the government for that matter, has put finding a solution for the crisis of rising student debt on the top of its To-Do List, the elephants have found some serious flaws in the donkeys’ proposed legislation.

For one, critics find the fact that six months after the final 3.4 percent interest rate is implemented, it will go back up to 6.8 percent. Democrats cite budget rules as the reason behind this alarming defect.

President Bush won’t get behind it either.

The White House’s Statement of Administration Policy stated it would only support efforts to direct savings to additional grant support for low-income students. Because students with subsidized loans don’t pay interest while in college, the Bush administration said it would rather come up with a plan that would better support students and families who struggle to meet current and future higher education expenses.

It’s understandable that anyone would want to focus more on the low-income potential undergrads, but quite ironic to hear the current president and his staffers use this defense. The main aid that low-income students use is the Pell Grant, and the Republican-led Congress failed to increase the spending on the Pells throughout the last five years.

In correlation with the Democrats’ logic, it makes sense that they would want to move more control of interest rates to the government.

And we agree. The government can do a more efficient job distributing the rates than, say, banks. If banks took more control of the loans, they would up the rates to make more money. That’s just good business. That trap for students is something this legislation could prevent.

However, this editorial board feels that the House needs to spotlight something more important. The U.S. Department of Education reported that between the 1991-1992 school year and the 2002-2003 school year, the cost at a four-year institution rose by $6,266.

Whether the legislation passed or not, the focus needs to move to college affordability. The interest rate decrease won’t help anyone if no one can even afford the initial cost to enroll. Interest costs are not the real problem. We wouldn’t need all those loans if they worked to help bring the cost of higher education down all together.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.