Few investments are more important for the future of America's middle class — and our nation's economy — than education.

With college costs climbing, and more jobs demanding higher education, we should be clearing barriers to college rather than creating them.

Student loan debt has reached nearly $1 trillion — exceeding credit cards and auto loans. The average Ohio student graduates from a four-year college with nearly $27,000 in loans. Just as we help small businesses with low-interest loans to expand operations and hire new workers, so should we help college students.

In 2007, President Bush signed into law a bipartisan bill that lowered interest rates on loans for students based on need. However, these rates are scheduled to double, to 6.8%, on July 1.


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The Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act, which I've introduced with Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would prevent interest rates from increasing for 7.4 million American students. It costs money to do so. But that cost is fully offset by closing a loophole so that a small group of wealthy professionals — who have household incomes above $250,000 — will pay what they owe to Medicare and Social Security.

The best way to reduce our deficit is to grow our economy. That means ensuring that Americans have the skills and education to do the jobs of the 21st century, and to prevent graduates from being saddled with so much debt that they feel unable to start a family, buy a home or begin a business.

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