If you aren’t already in the know, here’s the skinny: the interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford Loans for undergraduate students is set to double on July 1st, 2012–from 3.4% to 6.8%. The White House estimates that the average student affected by this change will rack up an extra $1000 in debt over the life of their subsidized loans.
Will it affect you?
Maybe, but only if you’re an undergraduate student who will be taking out a new subsidized Stafford loan after July 1. And only if Congress fails to pass an extension of the current low rates.
Are they going to pass an extension?
Again, maybe. Both Republicans and Democrats want the low rate extended. The question, as always, is how to pay for the estimated $6 billion cost of a one year extension.
What’s the holdup?
Originally the Democrats wanted to pay for it by closing some tax loopholes for the wealthy. Their specific idea: tax profits for shareholders in “S corporations”–small companies set up by a few people to escape certain employment taxes–but only if those shareholders have adjusted incomes over $200,000 and work for an S corporation that has fewer than three shareholders. In essence they wanted to fairly tax a wealthy few that were trying to avoid it.
Republicans countered by saying, of course, that would “stifle” the economic recovery. They pitched the idea of paying for the rate extension by eliminating a public health fund in President Obama’s new health care law. So instead of taxing the wealthy, they wanted to cut health benefits for the poor.
How’d that work out?
Obama threatened to veto any rate extension if it was paid for with money from the health care law, at which point the Republicans blamed him for refusing to solve the issue for some kind of political gain, as if he were more worried about the election than the students themselves.
Where are we now?
Stalemated, of course. Congress still has until July 1 to joust over the issue, which means we’re just going to sit here and cross our fingers that it all gets worked out.
The installment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was initially seen as a breakthrough step in helping all children reach academic proficiency standards while simultaneously helping to create better schools and educators. But as Bush’s education law celebrates its 10th birthday, many are finally realizing that NCLB’s promise was just too good to be true. Now critics are labeling the law as federal overreach and insisting that changes have to be made to alter the Act’s impractical expectations. Here are the highlights of NCLB, so you can decide for yourself.
How it was designed:
- States must individually develop achievement standards if they are to receive Federal funding
- Within each state, all students in the same grade must complete the required basic skills assessment
- Schools will be publicly labeled based on their test results, to increase accountability on a school and teacher level
- By the year 2014, every child will test on grade level in reading and math
- The Act brought awareness to neglected schools where many thought performance was normal
- Based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), test scores in reading and math improved in several age groups, particularly within the lowest-achieving students
- According to the National Council for Disabilities (NCD), NCLB has changed the attitude towards students with disabilities by including them within the statewide standards
- The importance of standardized testing altered the material being taught in class, encouraging teachers to focus on a more narrow set of skills (think less art, science, and history, more reading and math) just so they can pass the assessment
- High-performing and gifted students are now receiving less attention than other students and have seen slower progress
- Thousands of schools were labeled as failures (a term that becomes less inspiring year after year)
- The gains seen based on test scores have plateaued, perhaps signaling the need for an update
To gain more insight on the No Child Left Behind debate, click here.