(CNSNews.com) - The House has passed a bill that would cut interest rates on college loans for students who need them, and the Senate plans to take up the bill next week.
Supporters say that H.R. 5, the College Student Relief Act of 2007, will help make a college education more affordable; but those opposed insist it won't help a single student afford college.
The House vote on Wednesday was 356-71, with all Democrats and 124 Republicans voting for the bill, which would reduce the student loan interest rate from 6.8 percent to 3.4 over five years.
Republican critics note that the interest rate will be at its lowest point, 3.4 percent, for only six months. But Democrats say the bill is only a first step toward making college more affordable.
House Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri voted against the measure. He said it won't help a single student get to college.
"House Democrats have once again checked something off their list, without actually accomplishing anything," Blunt said. "Cutting the interest rate on student loans does not impact a student's ability to pay college tuition. Students who can't afford college today will not be able to afford college under the Democrats' plan."
Blunt said House Republicans understand there is a need for more student aid and he said they have tried to expand college opportunities for millions of students.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the "crucial" legislation will remove some barriers to higher education at a time when college tuition "continues to skyrocket."
"A college education is the best investment our nation's young people can make in themselves, and the best investment our nation can make in its future. Democrats will continue to work to ensure that every young person that is determined to earn a higher education is able to do so. Our young people should be driven by their dreams, not weighed down by debt," she said in a news release.
As Thursday's Washington Times noted, some experts believe that more federal aid actually boosts college tuition.
The newspaper, quoting the conservative House Republican Study Committee (RSC), explained it this way: "As the federal and state governments absorb an increasingly large portion of college expenses, institutions of higher education can raise tuition at taxpayers' expense without the student or their families being held accountable for the cost.
See Earlier Story:
Pelosi's Tuition Pledge Could Hurt More Than Help (Jan.4, 2007)
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