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  • The Public Student Loan Option

    In a preview of the State of the Union address, President Obama has recommended a plan to help students pay off their debt – with taxpayer dollars, of course.

    As Politico reports:

    The Obama-Biden Administration will make student loans more affordable by limiting a borrower’s payments to 10 percent of his or her income above a basic living allowance. It will also keep the total cost of loan repayment manageable by forgiving all remaining debt after 10 years of payments for those in public service work and 20 years for all others. The monthly payment for a single borrower earning $30,000 who owes $20,000 in loans would be $115 a month, compared with $228 a month under the standard 10-year repayment plan.

    Got that? College graduates saddled with student loan debt who decide to go into “public service work” will have their debt forgiven after 10 years. And if they do anything else, like join the private sector, their debt will be forgiven in 20 years.

    At this point, it’s not entirely clear what type of “public service work” would qualify an individual for this deal. But as it stands, the public sector is appealing enough to college graduates. According to USA Today, the number of government employees taking in six-figure salaries has exploded, and the growth of these big-shot salaries has pushed the average federal worker’s pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.

    If implemented, such a plan could very well have some influence on the career paths of young college graduates. And it might have an impact on the rest of Americans. Since the government doesn’t have a vault of money set aside for this sort of plan, taxpayers will foot the bill. Taxpaying hairdressers, plumbers and machinists who chose not to attend college would be forced to pay off the debts of college graduates (at an even higher level if they decide to join the public sector).

    Francis Cianfrocco of the New Ledger adds:

    Higher education is like healthcare in that payments to providers are already heavily subsidized by government. Also like healthcare, the cost of education is rising every year far more quickly than the general inflation rate…colleges and universities are also like hospitals and medical practices in another sense: with no built-in incentives to cut costs, they don’t cut costs.

    Therefore, as college costs continue to rise, future students may be forced to take out larger loans to pay for the increasingly expensive college bill. That means more college debt would be thrust onto the backs of taxpayers. This is a program that would almost certainly grow over time, considering the existing structure of American higher education.

    The President should remain committed to helping American college graduates, but he should do that by helping foster job opportunities, as well as by demanding greater efficiency from universities that take federal funds. More job opportunities for college graduates will be created if the government loosens regulations and cuts tax rates for small businesses and entrepreneurs. The private sector remains the dynamic sector of our economy, and the President would do well to remember that when trying to help our college graduates.

    Posted in Education, Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    43 Responses to The Public Student Loan Option

    1. Bobbie Jay says:

      Why doesn't the cost come down? when people have a genuine will to teach, their salary amount would be minimal in dire straits! Same with government officials. If their will was truly to serve the people, they would do without before they'd put it on the people.

      Obama uses: coercion, bribes, bias, discrimination, favoritism. doesn't sound like Obama will be reducing the size of government anytime soon!

      Obama will mandate a college degree no matter what the job. He will obligate some to pay at high costs to fund those he qualifies as free. All of those who get it for free has a government job waiting. We all know a person can be the stupidest idiot on earth and get a degree.


      Get rid of this government…

    2. John M, Raleigh, N.C says:

      This program of forgiving college debt after 120 payments and 10 years of public service is NOT new under the Obama-Biden Admimistration. Obama was toting this in the State of the Union address as a new program under his administration…not true.

      This program has been in effect since 2007 under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 . Google "public service college debt" and the first hit is "FinAid | Loans | Public Service Loan Forgiveness" at http://www.finaid.org/loans/publicservice.phtml:

      "The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 established a new public service loan forgiveness program. This program discharges any remaining debt after 10 years of full-time employment in public service. The borrower must have made 120 payments as part of the Direct Loan program in order to obtain this benefit. Only payments made on or after October 1, 2007 count toward the required 120 monthly payments. (Borrowers may consolidate into Direct Lending in order to qualify for this loan forgiveness program starting July 1, 2008.)

      This contrasts with the loan forgiveness of the remaining balance after 25 years of repayment under the income-contingent and income-based repayment plans for borrowers who are not employed full time in public service jobs."

    3. Bobby M says:

      This is a terrible idea. In a lot of cases (like mine), I can pay for 20 years at a reduced rate, then leave a huge chunk of the loan on the table for everyone else to foot the bill. For the love of pete, just make my payments (all of it) tax deductible and not only will I get out of debt faster, the fed will get its money back. How is it I'm the only one who seems to get this?

    4. Austin says:

      How could anyone be in opposition to this, the argument made by John that this is already in effect is bogus. Obama proposes forgiveness 20 years after graduating, 10 if you go into public service? The Act John states above only forgives public service workers ten years after they have held the job. Yeah, people should have to take out huge loans to go get an education so that they may have even a minute chance of making some money. But in taking out those loans they are in debt for the rest of their lives and thus slaves to whoever they owe the money. Now I'm only 18 but i can even see that prices of everything have increased, the value of our dollar has decreased. It is harder now to live the American dream than ever, looming threat of debts and struggle make many weary of it. Stop being the selfish 30+ year old American that everyone overseas has imaged in their mind. Everyone is supposed to contribute to this country, the only ones that don't seem to be the ones that say "worry about yourself", the ones that do not take care of their people, the ones that say it is all based on the free market and private enterprise. These are the people who are stuck up, they seem to have a sense of self worth that outweighs anyone else. Get off your high horses people, every generation before you set out to helps it's people and the kids that would inherit the country next. None of the republicans in office care about us, they want to keep the same policies and not try to improve upon them, they want everything to say the way it is and no change to come upon us. That or they are letting their corrupt way of doing politics and their childish differences get in the way of promoting good and just policies, or getting anything done for that matter.

    5. John Paluxy TX says:

      Student loans should be between a student or student’s family and a commercial lending institution. They last no longer than a car loan. The government should not participate; no not even to guarantee the loan.

      Students need to learn to work hard and they are responsible for their own education including paying for it.

      • lex says:

        where did you graduate?
        PS 10.75 intrest rate is what we "are paying back" is that fair i borrow 10,000 and pay 5 time the price back Working three jobs / and trying to plan for a family; Even with a nice salary job i need to work another job- No one consolidates !!! DI YOUR RESEARCH We are your future – He is not saying we do not need to pay back he is just giving us a break considering. This should had been the 1st bail out –

        I bet your old and had our young society otherwise your just a grumpy person.

      • What college in this country do you think the average american can pay off in 5 years time? If the Govt did not back up student loans, then the majority of college students would only be the very elite and rich like it was before 1945. Everyone in America should have the option to attend a University regardless of their wealth.

        Last I checked, you can not default on a student loan, thus students do pay back their loans with or without help from anyone. It is an incentive for the Govt to pay back or forgive some of the student loans with certain jobs.

    6. Mark Kantrowitz, Pub says:

      John M. from Raleigh, N.C. is correct. President Obama's proposal is a modification of the existing Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program that was enacted by Congress as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 and which went into effect on July 1, 2009. IBR caps monthly payments at 15% of discretionary income, with forgiveness of the remaining amount owed. President Obama's proposal will reduce the cap from 15% to 10% and accelerate the forgiveness from 25 years to 20 years. Public service loan forgiveness, which reduces the forgiveness period to 10 years for borrowers who work full-time in a public service job (e.g., teachers, public defenders, police, fire, and 501(c)(3) organizations) will remain unchanged.

    7. Bob says:

      Austin, the cost of college used to be paid in cash, per quarter. When gov't got heavily involved in 60's(?) the cost started rising in response to the bill being paid by third party, ao no one cared if the cost went up. student still paid his share and the gov't loan paid the rest. Look for the sorrelation between student loans and tuition rates. The loans were the way to increase student body for those who "couldn't afford" college. That translates to people who were not willing or dedcicated enough to work their way through or work a quarter then study a quarter. Also allowed many of the diversity challenged students to attend first tier schools where they didn't acedemically qualify (and ended up failing or transfering to State schools. You've got to have all the info before you judge us older conservative types.

    8. Jon, Radcliff, KY says:

      As a retired soldier, I find this entire plan offensive. As a tax paying American in my 50's with no children left in the home, I find most of Obama's lies offensive.

      He claims that he is "giving a tax cut to 90% of Americans", yet my taxes have not been cut "not one dime".

      I did not get a new car under the cash for clunkers program, since none of my cars, which I just bought before his handouts went into effect, would qualify for the trade in. I did not get an $8000.00 tax credit for buying a new house (I signed my mortgage in 1988). I do not qualify for the child tax credits as my twin boys are 28 now.

      I served my country for 22 years in the military, and wrote that "blank check to the nation" that every veteran writes, that could be paid with up to and including my life, and was promised the free four years of college that Obama now wants to give to everyone regardless of whether or not they have his proverbial "skin in the game".

      In reality for people in my position NOTHING Obama has promised means anything, since he is in fact offering nothing, that is, nothing more than a slap in the face that cheapens our service.

    9. Bill, Danville, VA says:


      I appreciate your wanting to go to college and at 18 you are concerned about the cost. My wife and I have helped pay for 5 children to attend college. Now you want me to help pay for you, also. Do what my kids did, attend a local community college while you work and then transfer to an in-state university. Work during the summers and breaks. Your loans will be minimal when you graduate. To forgive loans based on the career you choose is unacceptable government intervention.

    10. Austin says:

      I wonder how our Government officials worked for college? I wonder what the rates were for their loans, how much they could borrow, based on what grounds? I wonder… what did a classic job a college student would have make years ago when our officials might have held those jobs, compared to now. For some reason I don’t think they had to pay the same way hard working Americans do, I don’t think they had to struggle day in and day out worrying whether or not they’ll be homeless, or have no food, or have no gas to get to school. This is the generation before us that considered college to be the best times of their lives as many college kids still try to strive for as the norm. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m 18, intelligent (1390 SAT score), hard working but can’t even find work. My college years are becoming the WORST years of my life. My experiences match up in no way to the stories my family has of their college years, and I doubt my experiences match up in anyway to any of our politician’s college experiences.

    11. Robert, San Antonio, says:

      I for one, with close to 100k in student debt, welcome this plan. Thanks for the education, suckers!

    12. Jeanne Stotler Woodb says:

      I paid for my student loan, I am a nurse and I paid back twice what I borrowed, I would not do this again, banks like it as it borders on usery for them.

    13. Joseph, New York says:

      Re: John in Texas

      Car loans are anywhere from 36 to 60 months (5 years) and secured against the value of the car meaning a low interest rate. Student loans are 120 to 240 months (20 years) and for the majority of americans "private" unsecured loans guaranteeing a high interest rate. (Private in student loan terms means between a borrower and a bank not supported by the federal goverment)

    14. HB, Laguna Hills says:

      Paying off loans or NOT borrowing is a financial skill everyone needs to learn. There should be NO forgiveness for College loans but a low interest rate for early years OR a 'rebate' upon paying them off early might be worthy. Too many in our country do not have good financial skills or manipulate the system without serious consequence to themselves. If you are on welfare and skip out on your rent you suffer no diminution of your welfare check no matter what the reason for non-payment, what does this 'teach'?. The President's proposal is likely more of a UNION PUSH as Government / Public Sector is now Union Controlled in all too many cases.

    15. Joseph, New York says:

      The loan rate should be based on the fed rate + flat service fees rather then libor + 3-4%. Student loans are "guaranteed" once taken. They follow you through bankruptcy and can never be defaulted on they must be paid back. Issuing them at an acceptable rate compared to the credit risk (minimal) is the best way to fix the system.

    16. Jennifer, New Jersey says:

      Gee let's see you decide to go to college, you sign a piece of paper with the amount of your loan on it, the interest rate and the repayment amount. Now you think the tax payers should foot the bill? I paid for my education by working my way through college – I don't need to pay for yours too. Are we going to do this with mortgages and car loans next?

      To Jon in Radcliff – thank you for your service to our country. My husband & I appreciate you and all the soldiers who put their lives on the line every day to make this country great.

      Let's "Hope" there's some "Change" left in our pockets in 2012.

      • lex says:

        Gee lets see- what was your intrest rate? 11% well mine is yes we sign papers at 6% but they have the right to raise. GREEEEEEEEEEEEEED obviously lies whit in you- GREEEEEED will kill our nation. seems your the first to start !

    17. Sue - Chicago, IL says:

      To Austin – Wow, what an entitlement mentality you have. You're awfully angry for being so young. So those of us who don't want to pay for your college education are selfish? Like Bill from Danville, VA wrote, there are community colleges (where I got my A.A. degree before transferring to a 4-yr. university), working, etc. No, it's not easy, but some of the things that we work for the hardest, we appreciate the most.

      Using our federal tax dollars to pay for college tuition for our citizens, which then can be forgiven based on your career choices, is nuts. Again, it's getting us to become even more dependent on the federal government. First, to get the money to go to college, then your wages as a public servant.

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    19. John Clancy, Wyandot says:

      I graduated from the Univ. of Det. in l957. After you take into account the big difference in the dollar, you realize that the cost of a college education today is astronomical. Why? In relation to cars, houses, washers, dryers, the cost of education is badly disproportionate. Why?

      I paid $12.00 per credit hour. The university was administered by Jesuiits. It probably cost me a total of about $2,000.00, including books, for my 4 years. I had a part-time job as a paper station manager for The Detroit News (32 boys). I lived at home. There was no thought of a loan–not from a person, a bank, a government–and my experience was not unusual. Those who lived on campus had the expenses of board and room, but many of them worked on campus in the library or cafeteria. Perhaps they needed a loan, but, I'm sure it was relatively easily paid back.

      As a people, we need to take a serious look at the COST of a college education. (I suspect that government loans themselves have been a factor in the rising costs that confront our students.) ULTIMATELY they may be a disservice.

    20. Toni, North Carolina says:

      This plan is just as absurd as the rest of this man's policies. It's not about serious improvements in education, health care, energy, ….fill in the blank. It's all about Progressives dismantling our Republic brick by brick. Where in our Constitution does is say the government shall provide a college education for every citizen? Providing educational assistance to our military who write that 'blank check' for our country is one thing, but furhter incentivising growth of a government/union bureacracy at taxpayer expense makes me want to vomit.

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    22. Alena says:

      I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    23. Alec Aramanda Alec Aramanda says:

      The President’s plan would in fact modify an existing program, but unfortunately the proposed modifications will cost taxpayers more money and fail to address the underlying problem – the rising cost of a college education. Put simply, these modifications will only exacerbate the problem. One crucial modification in the President’s plan amounts to a reduction in what college graduates are liable to pay back. The existing program caps student loan payments at 15% of the borrower’s discretionary income, but President Obama will now lower that ceiling to 10%, thus leaving taxpayers with an even larger share of college graduates’ debt. Heritage education analyst Dan Lips explains that, “Aspiring students would be more likely to take out larger loans and, therefore, may be less sensitive to college tuition costs. Aspiring students may also become more likely to take out loans they ultimately will be unable to afford, increasing instances of default, in turn driving up costs.”

      This proposal ignores the 800 pound gorilla in the room – the cost of college tuition and fees – and instead misdirects scarce resources to an inequitable and costly program to taxpayers, even though it would likely be popular among some people (e.g. a Facebook group with over a quarter million members promoting the forgiveness of student loan debt as an economic stimulus). Since 1982, the price of college tuition and fees grew by 439 percent – more than four times the growth rate of inflation and almost twice the cost of medical care (251 percent). And there is strong reason to believe that the growth of government spending on student aid has allowed colleges to increase their spending on a host of things, and ultimately passing the cost onto students through higher tuition bills. Until we address that root problem, such a forgiveness program could very well mirror the growth of college tuition costs and further sever the link between the student’s education and his or her commitment to pay for it. For that reason alone, it is best we reconsider the effects of such a proposal.

    24. Omar, Cedar Rapids, says:

      I enjoyed reading the opinions of the people who posted. I think this plan is a great idea because what it will do is allow young people to spend more of their money on things that will help the economy grow. So the banks won't get all their money back, too bad. The banks are constantly beating us to death with fees. I think the too big to fail banks should shut up and feel lucky that Obama hasn't nationalized the banks like in the UK and other industrialized nations. Its funny to me how all of the other nations can decide that making sure quality health care is available to all of its citizens but here we think it would cost too much.

    25. Marci, Iowa says:

      Interesting, as the standard repayment term for student loans is 10 years.

    26. Alan D, Houston Texa says:

      As a self taught machine shop manager, I wonder if I’ll live long enough to see improvements in our nations social economic condition and the crazy attitude that taxpayer’s should bankroll social services that we don’t agree to support! I personally experienced debt, some from medical expenses, others from bad choices. I personally paid off all my debt by learning from my mistakes downsizing and doing the right thing. I would like to think I am an average American male who raised his children to be independent and self sufficient like their father, but that doesn’t seem to be the norm these days.

      What program is designed to help ME ME ME??? Seriously, if WE don’t begin downsizing government, we’re all going to pay…

    27. Teresa says:

      I've read all the comments, and I am torn. I didn't have a very nice childhood (abusive to say the least), my dream was to get away. At 18, that is exactly what I did. My excape took me into the arms of my now husband of 20 years. Finding a decent paying jobs at 18 was really difficult, and making ends meet for us was impossible as neither one of us had any formal education. So, we both decided to further our education, bite the bullet, and STRUGGLE to get somewhere in life. We did everything in our power to make the right choices. I finished with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition with graduate level courses in Geology and Earth Science. I worked full time while managing a full load of courses. I currently teach 9th grade in a low income public school making a little over 40K. When I started teaching, my student loan debt was higher than my starting wage. I've been teaching for 11 years. I put everything I have into my career……..I look at my students as my own children. In some cases, my students call me mom, as I have spent more time and energy helping kids than their own parents do. I still owe just under 20k in student loan debt and honestly see no light at the end of the tunnel. My husband and I still STRUGGLE, in spite of what we thought were the right decisions. I feel it is NOT the resposibility of OTHER taxpayers to foot the bill for my education. I pay taxes too. As a public educator I do feel that I should get some compensation for the tears, sleepless nights, stress, and endless hours I've dedicated to helping other people's children make something of themselves for the small wages that I recieve. If this is the way Obama would like to use taxpayers dollars then so be it. I can assure you that if this goes through and I have an extra $194.32 per month…..I will continue to buy supplies for my classroom that the school district I work in cannot afford, instead of buying the two winter coats I purchased last year for needy students..I will purchase four, instead of our districts' teachers raising over 15K for local and national charities we just might raise 20K. What comes around, goes around. Maybe there will be a program out there for those of you who disagree with this one someday too.

    28. JP says:

      Like the one gentlemen just stated; Obama didn't implement the plan. The plan has been in effect since 2007. So, President Bush was already using our tax dollars to pay student loans. People want to blame all the problems of our country on Obama. He's actually playing the clean-up man. Be open minded and give him a chance, it doesn't matter what color we are, It's time to grow up.

    29. JP says:

      I here your cry. Because my husband and I have been married now for 27 years. I was raising my five children and teaching over 300 children a day on 14,800 dollars a year salary. After my degree, I make a little more. Like you stated it hard to pay the money owed and maintain a normal life style. I now have two children trying to go into college, I'm afraid because I'm still paying back a loan that somehow went from borrowing 13,500 dollars, to owing two different lenders over 20,000 each; I don't understand. Then they garnish your check because you refuse to let them go into your checking account or pay them over 380.00 a pay period. There is no-way the government should allow company's to sell educational loans and charge interest or daily interest rates I'm sadden also, I don't mind paying what I owe; but it hurt's to pay something you know you don't owe. The only money I borrowed was my last year of school to graduate. We need to learn how to help each other. We are supposed to be the land of the free and pay more taxes then any country. There are country where your college education is free if you are a citizen; how about that. Maybe we should start charging more for the outsiders to come to our colleges and give the citizen a break. The outsiders get more break then the US citizens.

    30. annika says:

      This is an older post, but I thought I should respond anyway. Some of the initial knee-jerk, pathos-ridden responses strike me as a pretty good reason for increasing education opportunities for all. The "diversity caused it" argument strikes me as coming from a place of fear and ignorance and is logically flawed and frankly repulsive. While I am quite liberal myself, I can appreciate a reasoned argument like Alec's as to what caused it. What are the solutions, though, I ask? I share a lot of Austin's anger personally, at 22 and on the cusp of graduating from a top college in June with 29K in loans. I attended community college for a year and a half and transferred, I should add. I intend to go into a lower paying public sector job initially before jettisoning it for a PhD in the health care field. However, it is looking as though immigration to another country where the cost of education is much lower than the US would be a much better option. This country places frighteningly too little emphasis on education and making it affordable. It's awful to think that the US could continue falling behind other nations which have also have excellent institutions which are either low cost or free for students who qualify academically. The irony is it would have been less expensive for me to attend a private university in Quebec, Canada or a public university in Norway, for example, even as an international student than at the (excellent, I should note) PUBLIC university in my home state of Vermont. Why aren't more people disgusted by this? Working through college is not an option for everyone, particularly for people in rural areas where there are few jobs to be had. Please note the incredible increase in cost since the 1980s, I'm assuming that is after many of the older folks on here were in college. Even with federal work study, the maximum I can earn is somewhere around $4000 a year — but there is little work to be had, even in the campus dining hall. I'm lucky if I earn $400 of that. I worked full-time while attending classes as a nursing assistant for a year and a half but had to quit as it was entirely too much with my academic courseload.

    31. annika says:

      *Oh, and I should not that, indeed, my comment was quite pathos-ridden and perhaps leaning towards the realm of "knee jerk". Forgive me, as I just had my loan exit interview today! I intend to pay it off within three years if I can as I lead a rather spartan lifestyle, but the current job openings are few.

    32. Joshua, Indiana says:

      I graduated in 2007 and owe 60,000 for an associates degree.I can't afford to pay the 500 plus / month payment that they would like me to pay for the next 25 years. I think what would be fair is for borrowers to take 50% of the payment and have it setup to auto deposit into a high interest account and then after 10 years pay off the loans and keep the other 50% to help support their families. Why should the loan companies make so much imaginary profit?

    33. gloria says:

      I have a student loan I got associate degree on accounting and 3 years of university bussiness administration I never got a job in this king studies I was living in Puerto Rico I came to Florida because in PR is not job and I want to study again because I know my studies dont help in here and with the economic crisis is hard to find a job I want to study again in here florida, how can I study again if I have fail student loan ? How can I pay a loan if in here is not job and crisis economical is here? why gov dont let student return to the university if I did everything with this US world!!!

    34. vocal mike says:

      When the government stops subsidizing big business, sports teams (new stadiums for example), and contracting cronies with our tax dollars, then maybe I'll complain about student loan repayment subsidizing. We have a much bigger problem of corporate welfare than typical citizen welfare and entitlement. The truth is that most people don't realize this truth. Most also don't realize the commons provided for in the constitution were never meant to be privatized. I'll promote fiscal responsibility with tax dollars when Dick Cheney does.

    35. Brad says:

      I'm getting ready to enter graduate school in order to attain my Master's in Special Education. I've worked full time all through school, spent my first two years at community college and my last 2 at the cheapest state school in my home state. All that, and I still walk away with $10,500 in undergraduate debt. I still plan to work as I go through graduate school, but there is no way my $12/hr will cover living expenses and the $30,000 the program costs. Mind you I am borrowing this money so that I can be a teacher and make $40k per year. In my opinion, a lot of the people commenting are most likely older, and out of touch with the cost of education these days. If education were at all affordable, then I too would not be happy with this plan. However, Universities are financially raping students & there's simply no way around it for us. If we want decent paying jobs we have to get multiple advanced degrees that are completely inflated and unaffordable. Unfortunately I don't come from a wealthy family, so borrowing was my only option.

    36. MSW says:

      This plan is ridiculous. Just another Obama plan to get votes for 2012 at taxpayer expense. Shouldn't anyone be responsible for their own decisions anymore? Those of us who saved, paid our bills and have low/no debt are becoming increasingly incensed at those who spend beyond their means – and now the government is forgiving/encouraging their ways. Outrageous!

    37. The Debt Management Salary may be in your hand but you cant spend it all before paying your debt instalment. So if you are trying to get a loan then think about the bonds with the company and there promises.

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