With students paying varying interest rates on student loans and many overwhelmed with debt, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he is introducing legislation to lock in relatively low rates.
Nelson argued student loans as a major economic concern, both from the numbers of students struggling to pay, and for the prospect that low student loan rates encouraging eduction, which would fuel America’s economy in global competition.
“The long and short of it is that what we want is to make college affordable for students. And so we don’t want the necessity of an education being dependent on the vagaries of the Wall Street marketplace. We want some consistency there,” he said.
In Orlando Wednesday, the senator surrounded himself with students and graduates struggling with student loans, though one appeared to catch him by surprise by telling Orlando news media that he was doing fine, and thought the current programs were fair. The students were holding loans ranging in amount from $23,000 to $116,000.
Nelson wants loans for undergraduate students to have locked in interest of 4 percent; for graduate students, 5 percent; and for parents taking out loans for their children’s educations, 6 percent. Current rates are a 3.75 percent, but going up soon to 4.45 percent, he said, and many students have various loans from different times in the past that not unusually reach 6 and 7 percent.
He also would have the federal government waive administration fees on student loans, fees which can start at $400 on a $10,000 student loan.
All would be rolled into his plan, which will be in a bill he has not yet introduced.
“Student loan debt is the second-largest consumer debt in America. The largest consume debt is what you would expect, home mortgages. But most people are shocked to hear that student loan debt tot al at this point is looking at around $1.3 trillion,” Nelson said.
He dismissed concerns that in the hyper-partisan Congress few such bills go anywhere, and he sought to distance his idea from an earlier one from New Hampshire Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which went nowhere.
“I get along with others and know how to build bipartisan consensus,” he said. “But it may be when we get this thing costed out by the Congressional Budget Office, maybe they put a big price tag on it. And that would be tougher to pass, no doubt about it. But the question is: equity and fairness and ability of students to continue, if they want to, to have an equal opportunity to an education. And what that is in the country’s interest is what I said, an educated workforce, so that we can compete in the global marketplace.”