Student Loan Relief in Sight, Maybe

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 9:52 AM EDT

Hooray! A new bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Senate to address the student loan crisis. It wouldn't actually reduce the amount that grads have to pay (you didn't expect that, did you), but it does make repayment easier by taking a program that already exists as an option and making it the default repayment plan. Jordan Weissmann reviews the details:

It looks pretty solid overall. All federal loan borrowers would be enrolled in an income-based program where they paid 10 percent of their earnings each month, with a $10,000 annual exemption. Meanwhile, the government would collect the money directly from workers’ paychecks, just like tax withholding. One potentially controversial part: It would forgive up to $57,500 worth of loans after 20 years, but anything above that amount wouldn’t be forgiven for 30 years. (The current Pay as You Earn repayment program forgives all debts after two decades.) But borrowers who don’t like the income-based option could opt out and set their own payment timetable.

And now for the bad news. The bill is sponsored by Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Marco Rubio. And as Weissmann puts it in a family-friendly rewrite of Jon Chait, "Rubio doesn’t have a sterling track record of selling his own party on bipartisan policy proposals." No, he doesn't, does he? But who knows. Maybe after ripping his political guts out over immigration reform, Republicans will throw him a bone by supporting this bill. It's not like it really costs any money to speak of, after all.

Then again, passing the bill would represent getting something done, and Republicans these days seem to be convinced that getting anything done makes government look efficient and responsive and therefore redounds to the credit of Democrats. And we can't have that, can we?

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