U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer spoke on behalf of students across the state this morning by urging Republicans to stop blocking a Democratic bill to keep student loan rates from doubling.

If Congress does not act to prevent rates on subsidized student loans from rising from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, millions of students nationwide and 570,000 California students will have to pay thousands more for an education.

“This week the Senate should have been working on a bill,” Boxer, D-California, said. “But, instead, the chamber was mostly empty.”

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked the bill to extend the current loan interest rate. Republicans objected to how the measure is to be funded.

Boxer invited several concerned college students to participate in a news conference in San Francisco this morning, including Rebekah Phillips, who said she left home at 16 years old with the dream of graduating from college and serving as a role model for her eight brothers and two sisters.

“We all say we’re for the next generation. Well, here’s the next generation,” Boxer said of the students.

Phillips said she already struggles to find loans to cover tuition.

“I am now looking at if I graduate, when I graduate, being forced to suffer an increase of the loans,” she said.

More than 75 percent of borrowers come from families with incomes less than $60,000 a year, indicating that the loan interest increase will largely impact middle-class families.

Phillips said she was concerned that the increases will make it even more difficult for graduating students, who face high unemployment rates and below-average compensated jobs, to find work and make a living wage.

“What kind of example are we setting for them if we make it impossible to do what everyone is telling them to do?” Phillips asked.

Boxer, who said she grew up in a middle-class family, recalled the benefits of her public education experience, namely that she was able to attend state college for free.

She said she was ready to fight to ensure students will continue to have affordable educational opportunities.

“You’re going to have your dreams, and you must not abandon those dreams,” Boxer said to the students. “It’s my job to make sure that those dreams do not cost you so much that those dreams become in many ways a burden.”

Boxer said Democrats plan to fund the $6 billion bill by closing a tax loophole affecting select wealthy stockholders of private companies, which roiled Republicans, who have been lobbying for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Although there is no clear path for how Congress will move forward on the student loan issue, Boxer suggested Republicans will “have a chance to change their mind.”

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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