Starting next month, the U.S. Department of Education will contact borrowers who are struggling to repay their federal loans to make sure they know of all the options available to them. The challenge will be getting the word out as there are many people who can benefit from the income-based repayment programs being offered. To accomplish this, the department is planning to send e-mails to those who seem most likely to benefit from the programs, explaining debt-relief plans based on the borrower’s income.
Efforts to help alleviate student debt, now at more than $1.1 trillion, and make college more affordable have been central issues for the Obama administration. It has expanded debt relief for low-income borrowers with a Pay as You Earn program for recent graduates, and simplified enrollment by putting the application online and allowing applicants to import information from their tax return.
Once enrolled in a program, low-income borrowers with high debt will pay a percentage of their discretionary income every month, and after a certain time period — 20 years in the new program, 25 years in older plans and 10 years for those in public service jobs — the remaining federal debt is forgiven.
Of course, income-based programs have a downside: because the repayment period is longer than the standard 10 years, except for those in public service jobs, interest costs are higher. The U.S. Dept of Education stresses that the programs are not meant for all borrowers, but as a safety net for those struggling with their student loan debt.
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