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WV Sen. Rockefeller says vote fails students, graduates

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The U.S. Senate has voted not to proceed with legislation that would prevent interest rates on student loans from increasing — a move Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., says fails students and graduates across the country.

"I recently met with a group of college students and graduates in Morgantown who shared with me their heartbreaking stories of student loan debt and their fears of being stuck in this debt forever," Rockefeller said. "Because they dared to fulfill their dreams of achieving a higher education that could lead to an exciting and challenging career of their choice, they're now in an endless financial nightmare that has led to the trade-off of their dream for a life that revolves around paying off their debt."

The Senate voted 51-49 to reject a motion to proceed on S 1238, the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act of 2013. The bill would have extended current interest rates on Federal Direct Stafford loans for another year. Rockefeller was a co-sponsor of the bill that would have retroactively reversed the recent rate increase to 3.4 percent on subsidized Stafford student loans made between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the average debt of a graduate of a four-year public institution in West Virginia is more than $25,000, exceeding the national average of $23,065.

For the upcoming academic year, more than 67,000 West Virginia students have already taken out federal subsidized Stafford loans. The New York Federal Reserve Bank says West Virginia has the highest rate of student loan delinquency at approximately 18 percent, surpassing the national average of 11 percent.

Rockefeller voted to proceed with the bill, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted against, saying he is working on a long-term bipartisan solution to the issue.