Obama’s politically-motivated plan to help college students repay their loans

posted at 3:25 pm on October 25, 2011 by Tina Korbe

At the same time that the Obama campaign has doubled down in its efforts to woo millennials, the president himself has made a point to pander to loan-burdened college graduates. He first announced his plans to help students pay off their loans as a part of his budget proposals — but, in the furor of the Occupy Wall Street protests, he’s seen fit to promote them more intentionally.

Right now, graduates enrolled in the federal government’s student loan Income-Based Repayment Plan make monthly payments of 15 percent of their discretionary income — and all debt is forgiven after 25 years. Congress has already passed a law to change that program to require students to make payments of just 10 percent of their monthly discretionary income — and to forgive the loan after just 20 years. That law will take effect in 2014 — unless Obama has his way. The president would like to promote the start date to 2012. Hmm. What else happens in 2012? (Incidentally, the law is somewhat problematic in the first place. The more debt the federal government has to “forgive” students, the more money taxpayers never see back.)

The president also wants to allow students with both direct loans and federally backed private loans to consolidate the two into a direct loan with a low interest rate. If you’ll recall, the federal government completely took over the student loan industry to help pay for Obamacare — but, prior to that takeover, the federal government backed private student loans. So, the president’s consolidation program would apply only to those students whose loan packages were crafted before Obamacare. Going forward, no students will have federally backed private loans to consolidate into direct loans anyway. It’s clear to see that this proposal would, in fact, make it easier for students to pay off their loans (although I think the student loan takeover moved the business of student loans in the wrong direction in the first place) — but the president appears to think he can implement the change independent of Congress. That’s yet another troubling tally in Obama’s column of “legislating through the executive branch.”

No doubt the president really does want to help students repay their college loans — in return for a vote. It hurts to be this cynical, but the timing and sudden urgency of so many of the president’s recent proposals raises the possibility that the president is politicizing again and again.


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