WASHINGTON DC (NEXSTAR) – Families across the country have racked up about $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. Critics of a recent rule change worry that number will now only continue to climb.
At the end of last week, the Trump administration eliminated an Obama-era rule that aimed to ensure for-profit schools were providing programs that led students into jobs that paid enough to pay off their loans. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said this gainful employment rule didn’t treat all student and schools fairly.
Democrats called DeVos’ action “a gift to predatory programs and for-profit colleges.” However, a top Republican in the Senate is working on legislation he says would re-establish and expand the gainful employment rule. “Making it simpler and easier to go to college,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R – Tennessee).
But rather than measure students’ debt to income ratio, Sen. Alexander wants to measure their actual progress repaying their debt. The plan he’s developing would apply to every college program. “So that the degree you pay for is really worth it,” he said.
Alexander also wants to simplify the repayment system for borrowers. “There are nine very complicated ways to do that now. I think we can do it in two ways to make colleges more accountable,” the senator said.
The two options Alexander is proposing include a standard 10-year repayment plan and an income-based repayment plan that would automatically deduct a set amount from a borrower’s paycheck.
Alexander’s plan would also simplify the application for federal student aid (FAFSA) from more than a hundred questions to two dozen, which could add two million more students to the 20 million who fill out the form every year.
Working with Washington Democrat Senator Patty Murray, Alexander hopes to introduce the legislation in the fall. It’s another priority of his before he retires at the end of 2020.