WASHINGTON — President Bush said Saturday that the credit crunch is threatening the availability of student loans. He said his administration is doing what it can to help with emergency loans but prodded Congress for authority to do more.
"A slowdown in the economy shouldn't mean a downturn in educational opportunities," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
He voiced support for a House-passed bill that would grant the Education Department greater temporary authority to provide loans to students unable to secure ones from banks or other lenders. A similar measure by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., is pending in the Senate.
The legislation passed the House 383-27 this month.
"A delay of even a week or two may make it impossible for this legislation to help students going to school this fall," Bush said.
He noted that recently some lenders had dropped out of the federal program that provides college loans to students who often have little or no credit.
Bush said the Education Department, through its "lender of last resort" program, was stepping up efforts to make loans directly available to students.
"But more needs to be done," Bush said. "Congress needs to pass legislation that would give my administration greater authority to buy federal student loans. By doing so, "we can ensure that lenders will continue to participate in the guaranteed loan program and ensure that students continue to have access to tuition assistance."
The House bill would raise limits on how much borrowers can receive under the federal program. It also would allow parents to defer repayment of those loans until after their children leave school.