Students will have an easier time paying back loans due to the efforts of Michigan Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn), who is trying to make college more affordable.

The new laws — effective July 1 — are intended to put a cap on monthly loan payments based on a certain percentage of the borrower’s income. They will also increase the Pell Grant Award — a post-secondary educational federal grant program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education — by $600 for students currently enrolled in and preparing to enter college. The benefits are an extension of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which Dingell helped enact in 2007.

Borrowers can now participate in an income-based repayment program. The amount of money borrowers have to pay back is capped based on income. After 25 years in the program, debts will be completely dismissed.

According to Dingell, these benefits come at a time when getting a college education is crucial because of the unstable economy.

“When I was growing up I was told that in order to have a good job you must graduate from grade school, and then it was high school and now it is college,” Dingell wrote in an e-mail interview. “I want to ensure that all students who want to attend college can.”

Dingell said the average college student graduates with $22,000 in debt because of both federal and private loans. This burden, on top of the tightening job market, makes it critical for additional financial aid to reach students.

LSA junior Christina Tzortzinis, who is taking out student loans, said she thinks many students are struggling financially, which will make it less likely that they will graduate from college.

“I think more people are going to be going to community colleges or having to work before they go to college, and it makes it less likely that people will finish their secondary education,” she said.

On July 1, Dingell held a meeting on campus to inform students and graduates of the steps being taken in Congress to make college more affordable. Dingell wrote that the meeting was necessary so that he could communicate directly with constituents and receive their feedback.

“In order to serve my constituents effectively, it is important that I hear from them directly about what I can be doing on the federal level to ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to be successful,” Dingell wrote.

In conjunction with the income-based repayment program, graduates who enter public-service jobs will have additional loan leniency. Firefighters, public defenders, prosecutors, members of the military and other public servants will have their debt removed after 10 years of payment.

According to a press release from Dingell’s office, the new benefits are similar to the goals of the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, which Dingell helped enact in Congress. The act gave $20 billion in college aid — the single largest governmental investment in college since the passage of the GI Bill after World War II.

Dingell wrote in a press release that he hopes these new benefits will encourage students to enter college, despite the financial challenges therein.

“I know for many (attending college) is a risky endeavor, with the rising costs of tuition and textbooks more and more of our students are taking on enormous financial burdens without the guarantee of a good job,” Dingell wrote. “It is my hope that these benefits might provide some relief for their pocketbook and their bank account.”

With these new benefits, students who would not otherwise have the opportunity will be able to get a higher education and help stimulate the economy.

“Graduation day should be a fresh start for our students, we must ensure that upon graduation our students are not overwhelmed with student loan payments,” Dingell wrote.

LSA junior Danielle Bizzotto said in light of the current economic crisis, it’s especially surprising and beneficial for Dingell to extend financial aid.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing that (Dingell is) increasing the Pell Grant, because with a lot of parents losing their jobs, it’s so hard to pay for college yourself,” Bizzotto said.

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