Obama Administration Targets Income-Based Repayment Programs to Grow

This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced a goal of enrolling an additional 2 million federal student loan borrowers in income-based repayment programs in the next year on top of the 4.8 million already enrolled.

The White House has partnered with some colleges and businesses to help further spread the word about such programs. And the U.S. Education Department plans to boost its efforts to target borrowers who would be most helped by the plans.

In addition, the Department announced that they plan to revamp and standardize how federal student loan servicers provide information about borrowers to credit reporting agencies. In addition, the Education Department said it would seek to set clearer standards for how it wants loan servicers to collect federal loans.

At the same time, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it was working on new disclosure forms that loan servicers would send to borrowers, providing customized information about which loan repayment programs are best for their circumstances.


Washington Ranks Top State for Student Loan Repayment

Washington and the state’s postsecondary institutions continue to work to reduce financial barriers to students across the state.  That work appears to have made improvements according to a new report released this week ranking Washington as the top state in the nation for student loan repayment.

According to the Project on Student Debt, a leader in the student debt conversation, Washington’s climate is more friendly to student debt management relevant to other states.

The Project ranked all 50 states on seven data points:

  • Median annual income for bachelor’s degree holders, adjusted for the cost of living, 2014
  • Unemployment rate, December 2015
  • Percentage of the graduating class of 2014 with student debt
  • Average amount of student debt owed by graduates in the class of 2014 who took out student loans
  • Percentage of graduates who start paying off their student loans within 3 years, 2013
  • Average in-state undergraduate tuition and fees for all four-year schools in each state, 2014
  • Average growth rate for all jobs in a state and the estimated number of annual job openings per capita, 2012-22

Using this methodology, the Project identified the top ten states across the nation behind Washington: Texas, Wyoming, Virginia, Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, Colorado, Nebraska, and North Dakota.


Large Majority of Americans Continue to Value Higher Education

Seventy percent of Americans believe that it is important for adults in this country to have a degree or professional certificate beyond high school, according to the fifth annual Gallup-Lumina Foundation poll on Americans’ opinions about higher education. This mirrors similar surveys since 2012. In addition, 66% strongly agree or agree that taking some college classes is a good idea even if it does not lead to a degree.

Additional survey findings include:

  • Seven in 10 Americans strongly agree (39%) or agree (31%) that having a professional certificate or degree beyond high school is essential for getting a good job.
  • 70% of Americans say having a postsecondary degree or professional certificate will be “more important” in the future to getting a good job; only 7% predict it will be less important.
  • 58% of Americans say it is very important to increase the proportion of people in the U.S. who have a degree or professional certificate beyond high school.


Department Reaches out to Student Borrowers

Last year President Obama released his Student Bill of Rights which helps to support student borrowers.  Since then the U.S. Department of Education has taken a handful of steps to implement this effort.

A WELL-ROUNDED EDUCATION: Focus of New U.S. Secretary of Education

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education King called for a renewed focus on well-rounded education for all students.

“Strong literacy and math skills are surely necessary for success in college, careers, and life — but they just as surely are not sufficient,” he explained. “Being a well-educated person and passionate about learning isn’t just about reading and computing well.  It’s about being skilled and knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, expert and passionate about a few, and confident in the quest for more knowledge.”

“The good news here is that, with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the opportunity to widen how we understand educational excellence is suddenly ripe,” he continued.  “It’s a great chance to right the balance in places where the learning focus has become too narrow, and to do so in ways that expand, not dilute, civil rights.  The simple fact is, every student in this country needs and deserves access to the subjects that go into being a well-educated person.  Music and art; world languages; physics, chemistry, and biology; social studies, civics, geography, and government; physical education and health; computer science.  These aren’t luxuries that are nice to have.  They’re what it means to be ready for today’s world.”

Research shows that students — particularly historically underserved students — engage more deeply in learning when they are exposed to a variety of topics and can better connect what they are learning in the classroom with the world outside the school.  For example, evidence shows that students improve at math when they have taken classes connecting STEM with the arts.  And, evidence shows that students with broad knowledge are stronger readers.

Financial Literacy Gets Some Attention

April is National Financial Capability Month.  The U.S. Department of Education and and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) are rolling out information to teach students how to save and manage money for their postsecondary education.

This builds on efforts by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) which has created a number of resources to assist students in planning financially for postsecondary education.