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Editorial: Student Loan Vote Just More Party Politicking

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Here’s a rare bipartisan agreement: College students’ interest costs should not rise.

Here’s where the parties part ways: How to cover the $6 billion tab.

Republicans want spending cuts and Democrats want higher revenues. Nothing new there.

Last week, the GOP-majority House voted to prevent federal loan costs from doubling for millions of college students. The veto-defying 215-195 passage was largely symbolic because the package is doomed in the Democratic-dominated Senate.

The GOP bill would keep interest rates for Stafford loans at 3.4 percent for another year, instead of an increase to 6.8 percent on July 1 as required under a law enacted five years ago by a Democratic Congress. The increase would affect 7.4 million students.

Loans have become a huge factor in higher education, and the amount students borrow now is vastly more than in past years. In New Mexico, average student debt is $16,399.

The debate brought out the usual partisan invective. While Democrats railed against the Republican plan to pay for the bill by abolishing a preventive health fund aimed at women and created by Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, Republicans responded with vigor, pointing out that Democrats themselves earlier this year voted to take money from the fund to help keep doctors’ Medicare reimbursements from dropping. Obama’s own budget proposed cutting $4 billion from the same fund to pay for some of his priorities.

If the preventative health program was so essential, neither party stepped up to protect it. Instead it became the sacrificial lamb in a politics-as-usual picnic.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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