• US Senate passes student loan deal

    The United States Senate passed a bipartisan agreement Wednesday on student loan rates, nearly a month after the July 1 deadline.

    Student interest rates for subsidized loans hiked from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, after the July deadline because of the struggle for a Senate agreement.

    The legislation now puts undergraduate Stafford loan rates at 3.86 percent, graduate Stafford loans at 5.4 percent as well as parent and graduate student PLUS loans at 6.4 percent. According to ABC, this will apply retroactively to loans issued after the deadline.

    Politico reported these new rates would come with interest rates cap, allowing rate to increase without exceeding a set limit of 8.5 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent for graduates and 10.5 for PLUS loans.

    It came to a 81-18 vote, with Democrats split on the bill.

    Follow Christine Ayala on Twitter @christine_ayala.

  • UT engineering building evacuated

    UPDATE: According to a UT safety alert, the building has been ventilated and cleared for re-entry.

    The Engineering Science Building on Speedway was evacuated Thursday morning, because of smoke spreading from the seventh floor caused by the air conditioning.

    The building was evacuated after the smoke triggered fire alarms. UTPD is now asking those on campus to stay away from Speedway between 24th Street and Dean Keaton. The building is being ventilated to clear the smoke. There was no fire involved.

    UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said the building will reopen later today.

    Spanish and Electrical Engineering senior Cristina Landivar said she evacuated the building when the alarms went off.

    “I was on the third floor and I could smell smoke,” Landivar said.

  • Twitter storm planned for Omid Kokabee

    At 12 p.m. CST, freeomid.org is planning a "Twitter storm" to alert people to the situation of Omid Kokabee, a former UT physics graduate student who is imprisoned in Iran.

    Kokabee was arrested and imprisoned in Iran in 2011 on charges on conspiracy. He was charged with "allegedly conspiring with enemies of Iran and receiving illegitimate funds.” He has since been sentenced to a 10-year term, and has lost multiple appeals. In multiple letters from prison, Kokabee has insisted on his innocence. Advocates from the international academic community claim Kokabee was wrongly accused and given an unfair trial.

    Last summer, UT President William Powers Jr. attempted to gain permission to release a statement supporting Kokabee. However, he was unable to do so because according to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroara only the board president or UT System chancellor may comment on “matters of a political or obviously controversial nature, which represent an official position of the UT System or any institution or department thereof.”

    The Twitter storm begins at 1 p.m. 

    Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.

  • The Morning Texan: Austin requests feedback on bike shares

    According to the National Weather Service, today's high will be 98 degrees. While it has been dry all week, the chance for rain returns tomorrow night.

    Here is some morning reading,

    Yesterday's most read story online: MyEdu executives have cited student satisfaction in a short presentation to the UT System Board of Regents, which elicited few comments from the regents, but the company’s new career services options may not be the best direction for students, said Michael Morton, former Senate of College Councils president and UT alumnus. 

    In case you missed it: A $2.7 million grant by the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation has helped establish the Texas Invasive Species Program, which will research foreign species introduced into the state and methods to reduce their threat to native ecosystems.

    What you have to read: Austin is now accepting recommendations from the public for potential bike share locations. The city is using the location suggestions and votes on the locations to select the upcoming kiosk sites.