White House proposes changes to college student loan programs

The Trump administration announced Monday some proposed changes it believes will reduce student loan debt and expand Pell Grant eligibility to students pursuing careers in high-demand industries.

The White House wants Congress to extend loan forgiveness to all undergraduate students after 180 months of repayment through an income-driven repayment plan. It’s proposing a 12.5 percent monthly cap of a borrower’s discretionary income. It also wants limits for Parent and Grad PLUS loan programs.

The administration has been vocal in recent months about the rise in student loan debt, which it says is $1.5 trillion, an increase of more than 350 percent since 2003.

Trump administration officials also discussed a proposal that has been popular among state leaders, finding ways to get students to pursue careers in high-demand industries. It wants Congress to expand Pell Grant eligibility to include programs that provide students with a credential, certification, or license in a high-demand field. Georgia's Technical College System offers free tuition in 17 programs in what it consider high-demand careers, such as commercial truck driving, logistics, movie production set design and welding.

The changes are part of the Trump administration’s efforts to overhaul the nation’s Higher Education Act.

“We need to modernize our higher education system to make it affordable, flexible, and outcome-oriented so all Americans, young and old, can learn the skills they need to secure and retain good-paying jobs,” Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, said in a conference call with reporters.

White House officials did not have details on some ideas, such as limits on Parent and Grad PLUS loan programs. Many educators criticized Obama administration changes to the Parent PLUS program as hurting accessibility for some students to pay for college, particularly historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The White House stressed Monday its mission to support HBCUs in a five-page report outlining its proposed changes to the Higher Education Act.

The five-page report also outlines calls for colleges to share more information about annual costs and graduation rates. Georgia public education leaders are working on efforts to improve financial literacy with information such as recommended borrowing amounts. On average, University System of Georgia students borrow about $6,200 a year, officials say.