EDUCATION

Obama announces help for student loan borrowers

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The White House said the changes will carry no additional costs to taxpayers.

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Outside of mortgages, student loans are the No. 1 source of household debt.

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Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., his party's ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement that while he supports efforts to help struggling graduates, the president's plan was crafted behind closed doors and "we are left with more questions than answers."

Last year, Congress passed a law that lowered the repayment cap and moved student loans to direct lending by eliminating banks as the middlemen. Before that, borrowers could get loans directly from the government or from the Federal Family Education Loan Program; the latter were issued by private lenders but basically insured by the government. The law was passed along with the health care overhaul with the anticipation that it could save about $60 billion over a decade.

The change in the law was opposed by many Republicans. At a hearing Tuesday, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs a subcommittee with oversight over higher education, said it had resulted in poorer customer service for borrowers. And Senate Republicans issued a news release with a compilation of headlines that showed thousands of workers in student lending, including those from Sallie Mae Inc., had been laid off because of the change.

Today, there are 23 million borrowers with $490 billion in loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program. Last year, the Education Department made $102.2 billion in direct loans to 11.5 million recipients.

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