A new Senate proposal would spare millions of college students from having to pay a significantly higher interest rate on the loans they take out this school year, but it would probably lead rates to rise in the years to come. Nevertheless, the tentative deal is a good one for taxpayers and students alike. It's also a welcome reminder that lawmakers can reach bipartisan deals on politically polarized issues, and that they can resist the temptation to avoid hard choices by relying on expensive stopgap fixes.
As the Obama administration acknowledged in its budget proposal earlier this year, fixed interest rate loans are not sustainable over the long term. They eliminate the link between what borrowers pay and what it costs the government to offer the loans. That's a haphazard approach.
Student loan interest rates are just one piece of the larger puzzle of college affordability. The rapid rise in tuition and fees has put higher education out of many Americans' reach, and the ballooning amount of student debt much of it owed to taxpayers poses a growing threat to the economy. So, although lawmakers should embrace the Senate proposal on interest rates, they have much more work to do.