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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Plan to ease student debt was good idea with sloppy execution

Thursday, June 19, 2014 | 12:57 p.m. CDT; updated 3:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 19, 2014

It's general knowledge that standards for policymaking in Congress have sunk to abysmal lows.

The executive branch of government isn't doing much to set a better example.

The most recent case in point was President Barack Obama's plan for helping college students struggling to repay their debt.

Obama used his presumed executive authority to expand an existing program that eases the repayment burden for college student loans.

That's not such a shocking idea — the program Obama expanded was signed into law by President George W. Bush. And students definitely could use some help in repaying loans in an economy that has yet to raise wage levels.

What is disconcerting is the sloppy way the administration implemented the change. "We don't actually know the costs yet," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "We'll figure that out on the back end."

Is that any way to run the government?

The amount of outstanding student loans soared past the trillion-dollar mark several years ago, an amount greater than either credit card debt or auto loan debt.

In Nebraska, the average student owes $26,473 at graduation, according to the Project on Student Debt.

The default rate for college loans is higher than for credit cards or other types of debt, despite the fact that not even declaring bankruptcy will erase a student loan. Currently, almost 15 percent of college students default on their loans within three years of entering repayment.

The Pay as You Earn program expanded by Obama could help an additional 5 million students by requiring them to pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income to student loans. After 20 years, the remainder of the loan would be forgiven.

The program could help a student with $55,000 in debt reduce the payment from $541 a month under a traditional 10-year schedule to $146, assuming an income of $35,000 a year, under the Pay as You Earn plan, according to "The Student Loan Ranger" blog.

It's no secret that salary levels in some fields are so low that it would take half a lifetime or more to repay a college loan.

Good advice for any college student taking out a loan is thinking ahead to how they can repay it.

That's the adult, responsible way to make these decisions.

Now we just need to get federal officials to take that advice, as the national debt climbs past $17.5 trillion.

Copyright Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star. Distributed by the Associated Press.


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