A look at
the crucial differences between a student loan reform bill proposed by the
Senate and one already passed by the House.
The House is set to go along with a bipartisan Senate compromise that would
link college students' interest rates to the financial markets and offer
borrowers lower rates this fall.
The Senate bill hews closely to one the House has already
passed, and leaders from both parties and in both chambers expect that those
differences won't stand in the way of quick resolution, perhaps as early as
House approval would send the measure to President Barack
Obama, who has said he would sign it into law "right away."
But critics note that if the economy improves as
expected, rates could climb higher.
If the Republican-led House consents to the Senate's
tinkering with the House's earlier proposal, and Obama signs the legislation
before students start returning to campus, families would see better deals on
some federal loans this year than they did in 2012. Undergraduates could borrow
at rates as low as 3.4 percent for subsidized Stafford loans and 6.8 percent on
unsubsidized Stafford loans last year, while graduate students and parents
borrowed at 7.9 percent last year.
Those 3.4 percent rates doubled on July 1 because
Congress didn't act. Lawmakers from both parties said the rate increase was
unacceptable and worked on various proposals to extend rates, overhaul rates
and even remake the entire program before classes start this fall.
Both chambers would link the interest rate to the 10-year
Treasury note plus an added percentage, based on the type of loan. Each sets
caps on how high the loans can go.