Christian Aguilar / Courier
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College tuition has been on the rise for years, contributing to an already obscene amount of outstanding debt being taken on by students and parents. The St. Louis Federal Reserve reported that as of early February, outstanding student loans are nearing 1.6 trillion dollars, with no signs of slowing down. Congress is currently in the process of a potential reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in hopes of chipping away at one of the biggest debts citizens of this country face.    

It is extremely difficult to gauge the full scope of where our nation might end up if the growth of student loans continue to rise at the current rate and nothing is done to curb the rising costs of college.

Aside from mortgage payments, the price of college has become the biggest money responsibility in households across America. There is no doubt that there is a link between the availability of financial aid and the price of admissions.

Fortunately, for those of us currently making our way through school, worried about what our share of the school debt may be and for those already with an inexorable amount of post-school debt, there just might be a solution.

The Trump administration recently proposed several changes to the Higher Education Act; changes that may have a positive effect on people in debt from school and save prospective students, or at the very least lessen some of the burden.

Two prospective changes to the HEA could potentially give us a partial answer to our problems and maybe even provide a solution to our country’s financial aid woes.  Among the many proposed ideas, Congress offered to cap student loans and simplify repayment options.

Through the capping of student loans we may see limits on the amounts of federal loans that can be taken on by students and their parents. This, along with guidelines that are meant to improve financial aid counseling and the dissemination of valuable information, could contribute to the decrease in debt that our future needs.

Citizens can be burdened with student debt for generations, with no end in sight. This situation is taxing, for there will always be a looming obligation in the minds of Americans who find themselves swamped with debt. The limits put on the amount of aid that can be distributed is a great start, however the simplification of financial aid debt repayment might just be the icing on the cake.

Currently, there are several ways to repay student debt loans, most of which are acronyms and will have you making payments for the majority of your working life, with the potential to be forgiven. They include, but are not limited to: Standard Repayment Plan, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income Based Repayment (IBR). While these programs “work”, they may leave debt-ridden people constantly looking for air.

“Congress should consolidate the five income-driven repayment options into one simple plan that caps monthly payment at 12.5 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income,” stated the White House in a release outlining the new HEA.

This could prove valuable to those overwhelmed with the many options available for loan repayment, offering a more simplified and more tangible solution.

In addition to the consolidation of repayment programs, the new HEA looks to forgive debts after 180 months, or 15 years of being on an income-based repayment program. Many programs forgive at the beginning of 15 years, while some will have you paying for the rest of your life.

These proposals to the Higher Education Act just may be a step in the right direction, a direction that our country is in dire need of if we intend to stay afloat.

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