WASHINGTON — More than 7 million college students could be spared higher loan rates under a deal reached Tuesday by Senate leaders.
The agreement would freeze the interest rate for a year, preventing it from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, making college more affordable for students even as tuition costs are rising.
Although leaders in both parties said they favored the rate freeze, they argued about how to cover its $6 billion cost.
While they bickered, President Obama traveled the country to rally college students to press for congressional action. If the deal emerges from Congress intact, Obama is likely to take credit for having forced the issue to the front of the agenda, but Republicans have countered that an agreement could have been reached weeks ago had Democrats not decided to make it a campaign issue. Republicans say that Democrats slow-walked the negotiations to allow the president to paint the GOP as the recalcitrant party and willing to risk higher college costs.
The deal was announced Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who told reporters that they had worked out the arrangement but were still discussing how to push it through Congress in the final busy days before lawmakers leave Washington for a weeklong Fourth of July holiday.
The proposal's passage will be contingent upon an embrace from the GOP-held House, although McConnell indicated that he thinks the chamber's leaders will favor the deal.