trillion in loans that will be disbursed over the next 10 years.
"Doing nothing will mean students and their families will pay 6.8 percent for their loans for the foreseeable future," he said. "Walking away from this bipartisan approach is going to mean more debt for students, higher interest rates. I don't think that's fair."
Compromise on student loan rates comes amid soaring student debt, which threatens to burden college graduates who are facing a bleak job market.
Outstanding student loan debt has soared to an estimated $1.2 trillion, a 20 percent increase since the end of 2011, according to Rohit Chopra, the student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
That outpaces growth in revolving credit products -- mostly credit card debt -- tenfold, Mr. Chopra remarked Wednesday to the Center for American Progress, adding that student loan debt is second only to mortgages as the largest form of consumer debt.
The loan compromise is welcome news to Jeanette White of Hazelwood, a rising junior at Towson University in Baltimore who already has more than $30,000 in student loans.
"Gradual increases make it a lot easier to accept. Nobody wants the rate to increase, but I guess it has to to keep the economy stable," she said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Ms. White hopes the rest of Congress passes the Senate negotiators' deal quickly so she won't be stuck with a 6.8 percent interest rate on the loan disbursement she is expecting next month.
"It would make it a lot less stressful when I think about after college when I'm going to have to pay it back," she said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was among seven senators who negotiated the deal.
"We've come together to fix a long-term problem," Mr. Manchin said during a news conference.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said the deal is a great solution for students.
"They benefit from interest rates when they are low and they are protected from high interest rates by the cap if interest rates go too high," he said during a news conference to announce the deal.
The American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities, endorsed the compromise.
Discussion about the cost of higher education continues to raise questions about whether a college education is worth years of debt.
Trey Miller, an economist for the Rand Corp. who specializes in higher education policy and finance, said investing in a college education is still a relatively safe bet in terms of long-term productivity.
But he cautioned that further research is needed to figure out if it makes sense for everyone to pursue a degree.
"It's unclear that higher education is always the best bet for every student."
And even though lower interest rates are good for students in the short term, Mr. Miller said it is unlikely to have much of an impact on the number of students who pursue a college degree.
"Students tend to not be particularly sensitive to student loan rates or even tuition -- they will continue to enroll in college and bear more of the costs in terms of student loans."
Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: email@example.com, 1-703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets. Alex Zimmerman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @AGZimmerman.
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