The familiar image of recent college graduates struggling under a pile of debt is being recast. A new student loan policy recently announced by President Barack Obama will lower the percentage of annual income debtors have to pay on their loans and shorten the loan repayment period by five years. College is becoming increasingly expensive, but a college degree is a necessity in today’s job market. Obama’s new plan is a great relief for students with loans and shows his dedication to students and higher education.
The reforms to the income-based repayment program, which the president announced last week as the “Pay-As-You-Earn” plan, will take effect next year. They reduce the percentage of annual discretionary income that debtors have to pay from 15 percent to 10 percent. Student loans will be forgiven after 20 years under the new policy — five years earlier than the old system. The new policy will also ease the debt burden for the 450,000 borrowers currently enrolled in the loan program nationwide.
Tuition rises every year, and with the difficulty in finding jobs, it is becoming increasingly challenging for students to pay off their loans on time. According to the College Board, college tuition and fees have risen by an average of 5.6 percent each year in the past decade. Protests have taken place at many universities, yet tuition continues to climb. At the University, in-state tuition increased 6.7 percent this year.
Rising tuition costs have forced many students to borrow money with the hope that their decision will pay off in the future with a good job. Under the former policy of 25 years of loan repayment before forgiveness, student borrowers could still be paying off their debt when sending their kids to college.
With a nationwide unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, students with large loans face even greater challenges after graduation. Many recent graduates take low-paying jobs, attend graduate school or simply face unemployment, which makes it hard for them to make timely payments on student loans. These recent graduates need assistance, or many will be forced into dire financial straits.
Some criticize Obama’s relief policy because there is a concern that unpaid loans could greatly increase other taxpayers’ burden. While these are valid concerns, the reality is that if a massive number of graduates default on their loans, the results could be economically disastrous. However, the reform will monitor payments to ensure this doesn’t happen. Student loan repayment reform will greatly relieve struggling recent graduates and will ultimately help the economy because these individuals will be able to contribute positively to the economy after they pay back their debts.
As students, we appreciate the president’s new policy. It lessens the burden on borrowers who are struggling with increased tuition and a poor job market. The policy also encourages more students to attend college who otherwise may not have because of the large financial burden. Obama’s policy shows a commitment to the future of young people in America and will likely prove to be economically beneficial.