By Jennifer Liberto, CNNMoney
Washington (CNNMoney) - The House on Wednesday approved a bipartisan that ensures lower interest rates on loans for students heading to college this fall.
Members of the House voted 392 to 31 to lower rates for undergraduates taking out government loans this school year to 3.86% - cheaper than the 6.8% interest rate that kicked in on July 1. The new rates would be retroactive and apply to loans taken out after July 1.
The bill, which passed the Senate last week, will now go to the President Obama's desk to be signed into law.
It has provisions for rates to go higher in coming years.
By Jennifer Liberto, CNNMoney
Washington (CNNMoney) –The Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan deal that ensures lower interest rates on loans for students heading to college this fall.
Senators voted 81 to 18 to lower interest rates for undergraduates taking out government loans this school year to 3.86% - cheaper than the 6.8% interest rate that kicked in on July 1. The new rates would be retroactive and apply to loans taken out after July 1.
However, the bill has provisions for rates to go higher in coming years. It is expected to become law, with support from the White House and the House of Representatives, which will likely take up the bill in coming days.
"This fall, all undergraduates, subsidized or unsubsidized, would only have to pay 3.86% interest rate for the life of the loan," said Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, whose support was key to a Washington deal. "That means real savings for borrowers."
It doesn't apply to loans that students get from private lenders. It only affects Stafford loans, which are made by the U.S. government to help finance a college education. Students can apply through their university financial aid office. The loans are limited to no more than $5,500, for a mix of subsidized and unsubsidized loans for the freshmen year and $7,500 for juniors and above.
On July 1, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans doubled from 3.4% to 6.8%.
By Ted Barrett, CNN
Washington (CNN) - A bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement on a student loans package Thursday that would cap rates, ending a standoff that lasted months and broke through a July 1 deadline for finding a solution.
Under the compromise measure, undergraduate students would pay a rate of 3.85% next year on subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans. The plan would cap rates on loans to undergrads at 8.25%, for graduate students at 9.5% and parents at 10.5%.
"While this is not the agreement that any of us would have written, and many of us would like to have seen something quite different, I believe we have come a very long way on reaching common ground," Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip in the Senate, said at a press conference Thursday.
Sen. Tom Harkin, the Democratic chairman of the committee that oversees federal education programs, also was present in announcing the deal. The Iowa senator had resisted for weeks agreeing to a plan unless it included caps on how high the interest rates on the loans could rise.
By Jessica Yellin, Aaron Cooper and Tom Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Friday she is resigning and will be nominated to become president of the University of California system.
In an e-mail to associates, Napolitano said she will leave the Department of Homeland Security in September. While her nomination must be approved by the university's board of regents at a meeting next week, Napolitano sounded confident of the outcome.
"Departing a job and community you love is never easy, but I am passionate about educating the next generation of leaders and the University of California is like no other institution in affording such an opportunity," her e-mail said.
She graduated from the University of Santa Clara in California in 1979 as its first female valedictorian.
Napolitano, 55, was confirmed as the nation's third homeland security secretary and the first woman to hold the post the day after President Barack Obama took office in 2009.
By Ted Barrett and Ashley Killough, CNN
(CNN) - Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, faulted Senate Democrats on Saturday for this week's hike in student loan interest rates and urged the upper chamber to pass legislation that resolves the issue as soon as the holiday recess ends.
"For too long, politicians have been in charge of setting these rates, and we keep coming back to cliffs and deadlines like this one," Jenkins said in the GOP weekly address. "Paying for college is difficult enough without all this uncertainty. I have two kids in college, I know how hard it can be."
The interest rates on some student loans officially doubled Monday – to 6.8% from 3.4% – after the Senate failed to reach a compromise by the July 1 deadline.
The hike hits about seven million new subsidized Stafford loans this year for middle- and low-income students, but does not apply to existing loans.
Negotiators are stuck largely on the question of whether to require an overall cap above which interest rates on new loans could not rise.
By Michael Martinez, CNN
Los Angeles (CNN) - Transgender students in California would be able to choose which school bathrooms and locker rooms to use and which sport teams to join based on their gender identity under a measure approved this week by the California Legislature.
The proposal now awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, whose office has declined to comment on whether he will sign it.
The proposal would be the first state law in the nation that specifically requires equal access to public school facilities and activities based on gender identity, though some states have general policies to the same effect, said Shannon Price Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, one of several groups backing the legislation.
But enactment of the measure would "simply mean that California will be catching up with other states that already have enacted regulations based on a general prohibition of gender identity discrimination in schools," Minter told CNN.
By Jennifer Liberto, CNNMoney
Washington (CNNMoney) - Students preparing to take subsidized government loans will see their interest rates double to 6.8% from current levels, starting Monday, July 1.
But hope isn't lost yet. Lawmakers are working hard behind the scenes trying to strike a deal to save the 7 million college students who are slated to take the subsidized federal Stafford loans this year.
Senate Democratic leaders are throwing their weight behind a bill that would extend the 3.4% rates for another year, just as Congress did last year.
House Republicans have said they'd prefer a longer term solution, like the one they passed back in April to keep rates low for now but rise along with market rates in the future.
Students are being told to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
"We're advising our schools to tell students that their subsidized Stafford interest rates are going to be 6.8% on July 1," said Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Barack Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy. Follow him on Twitter: @VanJones68.
(CNN) - The student debt fight is back - with a vengeance.
Once again, current students are facing the possibility of interest rates on Stafford Federal student loans doubling.
Once again, we are asking what our leaders are doing about a crisis that gets worse every year.
Once again, the answer is: Not much.
It is the only form of household debt that has continued to rise during the Great Recession. It is also the only form of debt that cannot be discharged under bankruptcy or even death, as parents who have lost children have discovered to their horror. It is preventing young people from buying homes and starting businesses.
In short, student debt is a $1.1 trillion anvil dragging down the entire U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, the conversation in Washington is not about big fixes, but simply how to avoid making matters worse by letting interest rates rise.
By Doug Gross, CNN
(CNN) - Saying Web access is essential for students to compete in a wired world, President Obama on Thursday will announce an initiative to bring high-speed Internet to almost all of the nation's schools by 2018.
At a speech in a high-tech middle school in Mooresville, North Carolina, Obama was scheduled to order federal agencies to earmark funds for providing broadband and wireless access to 99% of U.S. public schools in the next five years, according to senior administration officials. The president is tasking the Federal Communication Commission with spearheading the project, and is also asking the FCC to fund high-speed connections at libraries.
"We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology," said Obama in a statement released by the White House.
"So today, I'm issuing a new challenge for America - one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together - to connect virtually every student in America's classrooms to high-speed broadband internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it."
The initiative, called ConnectED, also will ask private-sector industries for help in getting the most modern technology, educational software and apps into students' hands, and in providing tech training for teachers.
The effort does not require approval by Congress.
Atlanta (CNN) - Past, present and future came together on a thunderstorm-filled Sunday, as President Barack Obama received an honorary doctorate and gave the commencement speech at historically black, all-male Morehouse College, where the Rev. Martin Luther King and many other prominent African-Americans spent their formative years.
After opening with several one-liners, and more smiles than we've seen from him in the damage-control-filled recent weeks, Obama delivered a serious message to the class of 2013.
During a speech rife with both personal and historical references, the president invoked a past full of challenges, often resulting from racism, but noted that African-Americans need to break free from that past to succeed in a globally competitive economy.
"I understand that there's a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: 'Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness,'" Obama said.