UPDATE: Obama moves to extend student loan payment relief
By Josh Lederman, Associated Press
President Barack Obama says the rising costs of college have left America's middle class feeling trapped. He says no hard-working youngster in America should be priced out of a higher education.
Obama is signing a presidential memorandum he says could help an additional 5 million borrowers.
An existing repayment plan lets borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income in payments, but is only available for those who started borrowing after October 2007. Obama's memo expands that program by making it fully retroactive.
Obama is also calling on Congress to pass more sweeping legislation that would let college graduates refinance their loans at lower interest rates. In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama noted the program would be paid for by doing away with tax loopholes for millionaires. He says the choice facing lawmakers is whether to "protect young people from crushing debt or protect tax breaks for millionaires."
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the average debt for the class of 2012 was $29,400. Obama also notes that the unemployment rate for college graduates is about half what it is for high school graduates and that a typical college graduate makes $15,000 more a year than a worker with just a high school degree.
"At a time when college has never been more important, it's also never been more expensive," he says.
The Senate is expected to debate legislation on the same matter next week, but it faces significant obstacles. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in a statement criticized the bill for not addressing college costs.
"This bill doesn't make college more affordable, reduce the amount of money students will have to borrow, or do anything about the lack of jobs grads face in the Obama economy," he said.
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