Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Interest rates on federally subsidized student loans officially double

In the summer heat of the election last year, Congress passed a one-year extension on keeping the interest rate for federally subsidized Stafford loans for college students at the artificially low rate of 3.4 percent — and the sand finally ran out on that temporary stopgap today, hiking the rate up to 6.8 percent. Republicans have been proposing to link students loan rates to the freer financial-market benchmarks instead of allowing Congress to arbitrarily determine what they deem to be an appropriate rate, while Democrats are looking to keep the interests rates as low as they in their infinite wisdom see fit. There’s still a possibility that Congress could pass some kind of deal in the near future, but an agreement isn’t looking likely, via Fox News:
    President Obama included a variation of that market-based approach in the budget he sent to Congress earlier this year, leaving his fellow Democrats trying to block his efforts.

    “Why Senate Democrats continue to attack the president’s plan is a mystery to me, but I hope he’s able to persuade them to join our bipartisan effort to assist students,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said last week

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that a proposal to tie loan rates to the 10-year treasury note yield could never pass the Senate and that he couldn’t back something that doesn’t include stronger protections for students and parents.

    “There is no deal on student loans that can pass the Senate because Republicans continue to insist that we reduce the deficit on the backs of students and middle-class families, instead of closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations,” Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, told Fox News last week. “Senate Democrats continue to work in good faith to reach a compromise but Republicans refuse to give on this critical point.”

Er, we shouldn’t reduce the deficit on the backs of students and the middle class? How about we shouldn’t be continually growing the deficit, the consequences of which will eventually fall upon students and the middle class? Anyone?


Maybe It's OK to Let Student Loan Rates Jump

President Obama long ago began a campaign called "#dontdoublemyrate", trying to get out in front of Republicans on the issue of holding down the interest rate for federally-subsidized Stafford college loans, which were cut in half as a temporary measure and are set to expire today. President Obama launched this initiative last year and it's popped up again this year.

Republicans have now tried to hit back. Majority Leader Eric Cantor today created a "#dontdoublemyrate" report card graphic to promote Republicans' action on the issue:

This is true: House Republicans have attempted to head off the student loan rate jump, while Senate Democrats have refused to entertain any realistic legislation to do the same even as they demagogue against Republicans for refusing to help out students.

The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews has a long discussion of the student loan issue today, but one of the major takeaways is that artificially holding down federally-subsidized Stafford loans is a pretty terrible idea:
   There’s a growing body of literature suggesting that government programs like generous student loan rates encourage colleges to hike tuition. That, in the long-run, makes college less affordable for everybody. Additionally, unsubsidized Stafford loans and PLUS loans are very poorly targeted aid. If you think, as many experts do, that student loan programs generally lose money for the government, then losing money making college cost less for upper-middle-class kids is a bit hard to defend. Reed and Durbin’s plan, specifically, probably costs about $184 billion over ten years. That’s a lot of money that could do a lot of things.

Republicans have actually successfully gotten out in front of Democrats on the student loan issue. If certain Democrats (like Sen. Elizabeth Warren) got their way, federally-subsidized Stafford loans would become a much larger mess. This might be a better issue to let go, even despite Democrats' incoherence.


More pupils In Britain speaking English as a second language

The number of schoolchildren speaking English as a second language soared to a record high of more than one million this year amid a continuing rise in immigration, it has emerged.

Official figures show that almost one-in-five pupils in primary education now speak another language in the home following a sharp hike in the number of foreign-born pupils over the last 12 months.

In inner London, native English speakers are now in a minority, with the proportion as low as a quarter in boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Newham and Westminster.

Across England, the number of children who do not have English as their mother tongue has increased by 54,000 in the last 12 months and around 228,000 since 2008. The number stands at almost 1.1m in 2012/13.

Figures suggest that the proportion of children starting school with English as a second language has now doubled since the late 90s.

The disclosure – in data from the Department for Education – comes amid concerns that a rise in the number of immigrants is having a significant affect on public services.

It follows the publication of data showing that an extra 250,000 primary school places are needed within the next year, with immigration and rising birth rates cited a major cause of the shortage.

Some head teachers have complained that budgets set aside to teach children from immigrant and refugee backgrounds have been cut – leaving them struggling to buy in specialist support for pupils.

According to the latest data, 1,061,010 pupils speak other languages at home in the current academic year compared with 1,007,090 a year earlier and 832,790 in 2008. The figures cover primary, secondary and special schools.

In all, children without English as their mother tongue make up 18.1 per cent of primary school pupils compared with 17.5 per cent a year earlier.

Figures show that the proportion is higher than a third in 36 local authority areas, including Blackburn, Manchester, Bradford, Leicester and Birmingham.

The proportion of primary pupils speaking other languages tops more than half in inner-London, Luton and Slough.

The highest proportion of children who do not have English as their mother tongue is found in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, where numbers are as high as 76.1 per cent, followed by 74.8 per cent in Newham and 72.3 in Westminster.

DfE figures also show that the proportion of children speaking English as a second language in secondary schools stands at 13.6 per cent this academic year – up from 12.9 per cent in 2011/12.

The figures also show an increase in the number of pupils in England classed as being from an ethnic minority background.

In all, almost three in 10 primary school children are in this category in the current academic year, with numbers reaching almost a quarter in secondary education.


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