President Obama’s executive action Monday will ease the burden of college loan debt for potentially millions of Americans, and comes while Senate Democrats are working on other fixes for this growing problem.
College student loan debt is a drag on the U.S. economy. More and more graduates are saddled with huge loans that leave them unable to buy homes, start families and contribute to the overall economy.
The president is expanding a 2010 law that capped borrowers’ repayments at 10 percent of their monthly income. The original law applied to only some borrowers. Now, another 5 million borrowers will be eligible. Those graduates will have to hang in there; the relief will not be available until December 2015, to give the Education Department time to propose the new regulations and put them into effect.
The Education Department also will renegotiate contracts with companies that service federal loans and give them additional financial incentives to help borrowers avoid delinquency or default. That is in addition to the Education and Treasury departments working with the nation’s largest tax preparation firms, H&R Block and Intuit, to make sure borrowers are aware of repayment options and tax credits for college tuition.
The matter of America’s crushing student loan debt and its effect on the economy has grabbed headlines. Whether students are borrowing too much in order to attend pricey schools rather than seeking cheaper options is a debate for another time.
Solving out-of-control student debt is mission critical for boosting America’s economy. Some 40 million Americans have student loans totaling $1.3 trillion.
Families can help by educating themselves on alternatives to expensive four-year colleges, including state schools and community colleges.
Other states are searching for solutions. In March, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a couple of bills designed to help students attend college without impoverishing themselves. One creates a pilot program at one or more community colleges to provide scholarships and wraparound support, including advising. The other launches a study of whether and how Oregon might provide free community college classes to every Oregon high school graduate.
Those are longer-term solutions. For now, we must find ways to help graduates who are suffocating in debt enter the mainstream economy. The answers are out there, and can’t come too soon.