Rockefeller: Loan fix needed in short term

WASHINGTON – West Virginia’s two U.S. senators voted for a bill intended to prevent a doubling of the interest rate on student loans, but one said it was a long-term fix and the other was concerned of cause higher costs for students in the long run.

The Senate on Wednesday by a 81-18 vote approved the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 connecting interest rates for college student loans to financial markets.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the act was far from perfect, but needed to protect students in the short term. The act will initially decrease student loan interest rates, but market conditions each year in the future will determine fixed rates, Rockefeller said.

The legislation also caps how high student loan interest rates can rise.

“But I’m still very concerned about the higher costs students could see in the long run because of this bill,” Rockefeller said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also voted for the bill, but said it was a long-term fix that will lower interest rates for all students.

“In just a few short weeks, students will be returning to school knowing with certainty what their interest rates will be on their loans for the upcoming school year,” Manchin said. “I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for coming together to pass this common sense, long-term fix that lowers rates for all of our students.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, voted in favor and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, voted against. Sixteen of the 18 nay votes were Democrats.

Opponents said the act replaces fixed-rate subsidized federal student loans and connects it to market conditions instead. The legislation goes to the House of Representatives, which may take action before a recess in August.