College students and their parents can forgive their college debts in a major step toward a sweeping overhaul of federal student loan debt that the White House is pushing to pass this week.
College students and families with outstanding federal loans are eligible to apply for a one-time repayment of up to $50,000, the White, Senate Democrats, House Republicans and Senate Democrats said in a joint statement Thursday.
Under the plan, students and parents would also be eligible for up to 10 years of repayment.
The proposal is a major departure from the way in which the Obama administration negotiated the deal with college leaders and students in the first half of the Obama presidency, which left the country with about $1.6 trillion in student debt.
It is the first time in nearly a decade that federal students would be eligible to make payments to their college debt.
Under the plan announced Thursday, all college students and those with outstanding loans would be able to use their federal Pell Grant or other federal aid to repay their debt.
Students and families who can’t use federal aid, however, would be allowed to make up the difference in part by making payments directly to their creditors.
The White House said borrowers would be limited to making payments to a bank or credit union as long as they paid their taxes, and not to a private student lender.
Under this new plan, parents and students will be able pay off a college debt in full in 10 years.
If the borrower is older, he or she would be entitled to up to five years of forbearance.
The White House has said it would not be able for borrowers under age 65 to qualify for forgiveness, since they will not be eligible.
The president’s plan calls for borrowers to pay off their debt in 2026.
“This plan gives a debt relief plan to millions of American families who are struggling to repay the debts they took on and have no money left,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in an email.
“That’s why we’re putting forward this plan today.”
The proposal would also allow the president to delay or cancel the student loan interest deduction, a key component of the president’s “fiscal cliff” plan.
That tax break would be a key part of any effort to avert a potential recession if the economy falls into a recession and the government does not raise the debt limit by Oct. 1.
Mulvaney told reporters that the idea was “trying to create a middle ground,” so that borrowers can still get the interest deduction while still being able to make loans and pay off the debt.
“I think it’s important to get this done so that the next generation is able to get ahead and not be left behind,” Mulvany said.
“We’re going to take care of it as a family and we’re going be there for them.”
Senate Democrats, in their statement, also urged Congress to pass the $50 million student loan forgiveness plan, saying that it would help students and borrowers avoid the hardship of paying down their debts.
“A student loan is a financial burden that will keep working its way into the future.
The Trump Administration is making this debt relief proposal because it is important for young Americans to avoid the crushing burden of their loans, and to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by their parents,” the statement read.”
As a college student and borrower, it’s not my job to get paid back.
It’s your job to pay it back.”