Student loan rates are only a fraction of the issue regarding college affordability. Tuition and other fees, and salaries for graduates, have more impact on whether obtaining a degree is financially feasible.
Students in the class of 2013 carried an average debt of $30,000, according to FinAid.org. If all that was in the form of 3.4 percent Stafford loans, a student would have to fork over $295.25 per month to pay off the loans in 10 years.
But the loans for needy collegians now will have an interest rate of 6.8 percent. A student graduating with $30,000 debt at that rate would pay another $50 per month - not rent money, but enough to buy a used vehicle.
Of course, part of the reason loan rates for housing and automobiles are lower than rates for college expenses is lenders can take possession of a car or home if a borrower defaults.
Lawmakers can wave legislative wands and reduce rates for federal student loans, and allow banks and regulators to work out ways to lower private loan rates. But there are changes students and institutions of higher learning can make to lower the actual cost of getting a college degree - and they are.
Already, nearly half of all college students live at home. Commuting to classes can help avoid most room-and-board costs.
And increasingly, colleges are offering online courses at reduced rates. That's one way for institutions to lower the cost of a college education.
While some academics might consider online learning inferior to physically attending classes, absent growth in the job market and wages, homecoming may take on a whole new meaning for the next generation of college students.