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Win-Win: Obama’s Student Loan Reform Decreases Student Loan Premiums and Works towards Health Reform Passage

Posted Mar 14 2010 12:00am

800px-classroom_3rd_floorStudent loan legislation is being twinned with the health care reform legislation proposed by the House for reconciliation.  The language contained in the House “fix it” bill would stop federal subsidies to private lenders like Sallie Mae and would instead originate all federal student loans in the Department of Education.  Such reform is estimated to save taxpayers $67 billion over ten years according to the Congressional Budget Office.  The savings would be used to fund more need-based Pell grants , which are provided to low-income students to promote access to higher education.  In the past year alone, applications for Pell grants have skyrocketed due to the fact that many people are returning to school given the difficult economy.

Because only one reconciliation bill may be passed per year, the student loan reform legislation has been included in the health care reform bill.  President Obama wants to include the loan language in the bill because of its estimated savings as well as the benefits it will offer need-based students, and he finds the inclusion a “no brainer.”  The Democrats will need at least 51 votes in the Senate to pass the bill, however, and several members from their own party, including Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have already voiced concerns about the negative impact these changes will have on the loan companies and their employees.

The House Education and Labor Committee has already tried to discredit the claims of those who want to keep the loans with private lending companies. Rachel Racusen , communications director for the Committee was quoted as saying:

Lenders’ claims about job losses have already been debunked as another scare tactic to save their sweetheart deal.  While this legislation will trim the profits of banks, it will not lead to enormous jobs losses.

Democrats in favor of the bill add that the private lending companies will still be utilized for other loan services.  Some point to the alliances created in the Senate between loan companies and Senators.

Dissenters of the loan reform are missing the bigger picture concern: the benefits reaped by society through the intellectual development and financial security for America’s students.  Se nator Patty Murray of Washington said:

My own personal perception is, when we have thousands of kids on the street marching because they can’t get into our universities and don’t have the capability of pay for college, this is the best time for us to act.

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