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Sens. Durbin and Kirk Hopeful For Student Loan Agreement

Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., left, speaks to panelists, while U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., right, looks on during the Illinois Nuclear Safety Forum at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, Friday, March, 25, 2011. (Paul Beaty/AP)

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) say they hope their chamber votes on a plan to lower student interest rates when lawmakers return after the July 4 holiday.

Subsidized Stafford loan interest rates doubled on Monday to 6.8 percent because the Senate failed to strike a deal to keep them low.

 Congress’ Joint Economic Committee estimates the higher rates could cost the average borrower $2,600.

Speaking at Champaign’s Parkland College, Sen. Durbin said he is not sure if an agreement on a lower rate will be reached.

“I mean we really hadn’t reached much of an accommodation or compromise before we left, but I think when more members of Congress hear from families and students, there will be a stronger inclination to reach an agreement.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Kirk said he expects the U.S. Senate will find a solution to rising student loan rates soon.

I would say that the Senate is now working pretty well, that we’re knocking stuff out and solving some big problems,” Kirk said. “You would have never thought that we would be handling as tough as issues in a bipartisan way as we are.”

Lawmakers have known since last year that the July 1 deadline was coming.

The Republican-led House passed its own measure that links student interest rates to the financial markets.

Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville said the Senate should take that up.

"The bill was passed was actually thought of by President Obama," said Davis, appearing at his office in Champaign Monday.  "It uses marketplace rates that are historic lows.  It sets a cap and makes sure that students don't have to worry about what their costs are going to be once they graduate, and I just wish the Senate would have taken it up."

Durbin said the 8.5 percent cap in the House's plan on student interest rates is too high, and he wants that rate to remain at 3.4 percent.