Students who fund their college education through loans, often find themselves reeling under debt after they graduate. Current loan repayment programs take a large chunk out of monthly wages, which is all the more worrying with the economic recession, unemployment numbers on the rise and no raises in sight. In the recent scenario, a student pays 15% of discretionary income as loan repayment every month, which in many cases leaves little, if anything, for much else. Into this, comes the Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Program, which like any political reform, has met with much debate and controversy. In his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced a series of proposed reforms that would bring relief to college students struggling with crippling debt, in the form of the Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Plan. The benefits of this program can also be availed based on the career of an individual. Volunteers, military personnel, teachers working in low-income public elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, legal and medical professionals can avail this loan forgiveness program. Details and differences that separate this from existing student loan forgiveness programs are described below.
Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Plan
The plan described by President Obama dealt with provisions that would significantly reduce the burden of debt under certain conditions. Although the Program promises considerable relief to students in debt, it limits aid to those students who have opted for federal Stafford, Grad Plus, and Perkins loans. It does not apply to student loans by Sallie Mae, Chase or other private banking institutions. Income Based Repayment (IBR) Programs are an option for such loans. The act has a number of aspects, aimed at bringing about significant relief which are listed below.
Loan Repayment Percentage
This reduces the monthly payment from its level of 15% of discretionary income under the current federal student loan forgiveness to a more manageable 10%. Discretionary income is essentially the money that is left over after paying for taxes and basic necessities. With this 10% cap, there is hope for college students who wish to save, or who are struggling to survive on funds left over after loan repayments, taxes and basic necessities.
Under the Loan Forgiveness Act, the current forgiveness period of 25 years, will be reduced to 20 years. This means that if a debtor pays his monthly dues on time, without student loan default for a period of twenty years, the remainder of the loan amount will be forgiven by the federal government and the loan will be considered completed.
Further Benefit for Public Service
The period before forgiveness would be further reduced for people who choose to go into public service jobs – they would benefit by another 10 years knocked off before loan forgiveness, ending student loan debt after 10 years.
Education has always been considered a sound investment, one that is encouraged by the American way of life and aided by the easy availability of financial aid. With the US economy now struggling and the scarcity of jobs, the average student’s loans are a burden and many are now questioning the wisdom of the education which required the loan, as jobs that are now available, don’t really offer the benefits or the pay that one expected additional qualifications would command. The unique characteristics of student loans make repayment the only option available – not even bankruptcy can let you renege on your obligation of repayment. As a result, the Loan Forgiveness Program has attracted a lot of attention, though in many ways, it has been overshadowed by the more controversial Health Care Plan.
This program has received its fair share of bouquets and brickbats – while there are masses of students who welcome the Obama student loan relief, there are skeptics who argue the wisdom or the justice of the borrowers being given such benefits when they knew that the disbursement of a loan makes repayment obligatory. However, most students who do take the option of a loan are aware of the serious nature of the responsibility that they shoulder. There is widespread opinion that argues that the immediate 10% cap on repayment would encourage more spending in the marketplace, giving the economy a much-needed shot in the arm, which in turn benefits everyone – even those who have struggled through and repaid their own student loans. The Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Program has garnered attention no doubt, but as he very succinctly put it in his speech, “… because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.”