Obama, GOP duel over rising college expenses

By Alan Fram

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 1 2012 9:09 a.m. MDT

He would put private lenders back in the business of issuing federally backed student loans, let companies compile data about lending and colleges for consumers and help families save for higher education. The paper says little about how.

Campaigning in March, Romney was asked by a voter what he would do to make college more affordable. Romney replied that while it might be popular for him to answer that he would provide students with government money, "what I'm going to tell you is shop around."

Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, wrote a House-approved 2013 budget that would let the American Opportunity tax credit expire in January. It would freeze the maximum Pell grant at $5,500 for the next decade and it suggests rolling back some subsidies for student borrowers and recent provisions making the grants more widely available.

Ryan's budget says the Pell grant program, currently costing about $36 billion a year, is unsustainable.

"Urgent reforms are necessary to enable the program to continue as the foundation of the nation's commitment to helping low-income students gain access to higher education," budget documents say.

Obama also proposed keeping interest rates at 3.4 percent for subsidized Stafford loans for undergraduates. After initial Republican hesitation, Romney endorsed the idea and Congress eventually approved it. Ryan's budget would have let the rates double to 6.8 percent, as was scheduled under previous law.

Associated Press writer Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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