Trump to Cut Fed Aid for College Loans, CUs Have Solution

This content originally appeared on creditunions.com.

President Trump is planning massive cuts to programs that have helped millions of Americans get affordable college loans, and plans to eliminate a program that offers limited debt forgiveness for some people who go to work for nonprofits.

However, credit unions might help ease the impact through expansion of private loan and refinance programs, a student loan CUSO official said.

The Washington Post reported Thursday on Education Department documents dated May 23 — the date the White House is expected to announce its education budget.

The budget proposal calls for a $9.2 billion cut to the department, or 13.6 percent of the spending level Congress approved last month for programs from kindergarten to college. That amount is net of at least $1.7 billion in increased spending for new K-12 programs to encourage school vouchers and school choice programs. For college students, the documents show:

  • Cut in half college work-study programs, saving $490 million.
  • Keep Pell Grants funding intact for students in financial need.
  • Cut Perkins loans for disadvantaged students by more than $700 million.
  • Take first step to end subsidized loans, cutting $8 billion. These allow students to delay repayment until they leave school by having the government pay the interest costs while they are in school.
  • End loan forgiveness programs for graduates who hold public service jobs for 10 years.

The loan forgiveness program was enacted in 2007 to encourage college graduates to pursue careers where the public need was great, but the pay or locales made recruiting difficult. These included social workers, teachers, public defenders or doctors in rural areas. Usually, borrowers become eligible for forgiveness after 10 years working in those fields.

The first wave of eligible borrowers is set to begin receiving forgiveness in October. No provisions have been released explaining how those who have started school or jobs based on expectations of forgiveness would be affected.

Rohit Chopra, a student loan expert at the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C., said active-duty service members and teachers are major beneficiaries of the loan forgiveness plan, and many might not have entered their field without this benefit.

More than 500,000 borrowers have submitted paperwork expecting to benefit from the plan, Chopra said. “Likely millions more have made career and financial choices based on the program,” he said. “Whether you agree with the program or not, changing the rules for existing borrowers will breed further distrust of the student loan system.”

If the proposed cuts occur, credit unions could help soften the impact by offering more private loans to students, and refinancing more high-cost loans for graduates, said Jim Holt, chief revenue officer of Credit Union Student Choice, a CUSO based in Washington, D.C., that helps credit unions offer such programs.

The average debt of students graduating from four-year colleges was $34,000 last year, up from about $20,000 a decade ago, Holt said.

“I’m always sensitive to the needs of students and their families when it comes to the cost of education,” he said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that ending subsidized Stafford student loans would save $26.8 billion over 10 years.

Mike Long, president of CU Campus Resources, a CUSO based in Madison, Wis., said he was surprised by the budget’s proposal to end subsidized Stafford loans.

The proposal would end a program popular for generations of borrowers, but might also create a new opportunity for credit unions and other private lenders to attract those borrowers.

“It’s just a proposal at this point,” he said. “We’ll see what ends up happening.”

 

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