September 20, 2013

Americans gloomy about kids' future--but the kids aren't

Americans are worried and pessimistic about the future. Their children are more hopeful.

A new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll released Friday describes its overall findings as "downbeat."

If reported that two of three people think that when today's children grow up, "they'll have less financial security, with a poorer chance of holding a steady job and owning a home without too much debt."

Sixty-two percent thought their children will have "less opportunity to achieve a comfortable retirement."

A poll analysis, though, found "in the face of this intense pessimism on the part of adults, teenagers are much more optimistic and clearly feel the older generations have it wrong."

Here's the finding: "More than half of the teens surveyed (54 percent) say they believe it's better to be a teenager today than it was when their parents were growing up. A plurality (45 percent) believe that when they are their parents' age, they will have more opportunity to get ahead than the previous generation. Just 24 percent of teens say they will have less opportunity". 

To read more: http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/the-american-dream-under-threat-20130919

August 28, 2013

Federal consumer agency to spread word on student loan forgiveness

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today reports that about 1 in 4 working Americans has a job in public service, and many of them qualify to have their federal direct student loans forgiven after 10 years. So it's starting to spread the word.

The federal bureau put out a toolkit today (find it here) that offers practical advice to public servants on their school loans. Richard Cordray, director of the CFPB, said in a press call today that the toolkit "advises that an early start can save you thousands of dollars. And it includes information like how to qualify for student loan benefits; how employees can certify their employees for certain programs; and how to make the most of existing payment programs."

Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program in 2007 to encourage more people to enter teaching and other public service careers. Loans have to be paid on time monthly for 10 years before the rest is forgiven. The government offers income-based repayment plans, but Cordray noted today that for some borrowers, that still means loan payments for a long time _ "perhaps lasting until the time comes to consider how to pay for sending the next generation to college."


August 22, 2013

Obama: Tie student aid financial aid to college performance

President Obama leaves Washington behind today to embark on a two day bus tour in New York and Pennsylvania where he'll unveil a plan he says could make college more affordable.

His proposal aims to measure college performance through a new ratings system that Congress could use to tie federal student aid "so that students maximize their federal aid at institutions providing the best value."

The Republican National Committee blasted the effort in an email titled "Lame Speech, Lame Duck," saying Obama "officially embraces his lame duck status by doing what he does best -- giving another speech with no record to show for it."

 The White House says Obama's plan also will "take down barriers that stand in the way of competition and innovation, particularly in the use of new technology, and shine a light on the most cutting-edge college practices for providing high value at low costs."

He'll also propose that all borrowers who need it can have access to the Pay As You Earn plan that caps loan payments at 10 percent of income and is directing the Department of Education to ramp up efforts to reach out to students struggling with their loans to make sure they know and understand all their repayment options.

Continue reading "Obama: Tie student aid financial aid to college performance" »

August 09, 2013

It's the law now _ student loans tied to market interest rates

President Obama today signed the legislation that will link student loan interest rates to the market. It brings most rates down this year from what they've been in recent years, but the rates are expected to go up in the future.

At a signing ceremony, the president first thanked Republican Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the head of the House Education and and the Workforce Committee, who started the change to market rates with a bill in the House of Representatives. He also thanked "all the members of both House and Senate from both parties that came together to design a sensible, common-sense approach."

Obama added that even with a change in interest rates that keeps them lower for now, "the cost of college remains extraordinarily high. It's out of reach for a lot of folks, and for those who do end up attending college, the amount of debt that young people are coming out of school with is a huge burden on them; it’s a burden on their families. It makes it more difficult for them to buy a home. It makes it more difficult for them if they want to start a business. It has a depressive effect on the economy overall. And we've got to do something about it."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the leading Republican on education matters in the Senate and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement: "This permanent, market-based plan makes loans cheaper, simpler and more certain for the 11 million students nationwide."

Alexander's office put out a press release with a summary of what the bill does and how the interest rates will work _ read it here.


July 25, 2013

House Speaker Boehner supports Senate's student loan deal

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, today signaled House support for the market-based student loan plan the Senate passed yesterday. Boehner said it's "entirely consistent with the House Republican bill that passed in May."

"Senate Democrats finally joined Republicans in passing a permanent, market-based solution on student loans.  This bipartisan victory is a victory for students and for our economy," Boehner said at a news conference.

He added: "As for the Democratic leaders in the Senate, all I can say is, what took you so long?"

Both plans base student loan interest rates on the market an have caps. The Senate version is somewhat different from the House one, though. For example, the Senate bill sets rates for the life of a loan, and the House version had adjustable rates. The House version also raised money from the student loan program for deficit reduction. The Senate bill was aimed at making the program not cost or profit the federal government.

The House is now expected to vote on the Senate's version next week.

Continue reading "House Speaker Boehner supports Senate's student loan deal" »

Senators introduce new job search and training bill

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a new Workforce Investment Act today.

The nation’s legislation to support job searching and training has been due for an overhaul since 2003.

Introducing the new version: Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Murray, in a press release, said the senators had input from “businesses of all sizes, labor groups and education leaders who all want to make our economy stronger.

The release says the bill puts emphasis on using data to measure the effectiveness of workforce investments and “emphasizes real-world education training opportunities” such as on-the-job training and matches up workforce training and job search help with regional needs for employees.

Continue reading "Senators introduce new job search and training bill" »

July 24, 2013

Survey: Most state education officials see no backtracking ahead on Common Core

A survey of state education officials finds that most states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards for English and math think it’s unlikely their states will reject them now.

The survey of was conducted during the spring by the Center on Education Policy, an advocacy group for public education based at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (CEP’s report here).

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted both standards, and Minnesota has adopted the English standards only (background story).

"We found that, while there might be resistance to the Common Core, it isn't coming from state education agencies," CEP executive director Maria Ferguson said in a statement. "State leaders are more focused on finding resources and guidance to carry out the demanding steps required for full implementation."

Continue reading "Survey: Most state education officials see no backtracking ahead on Common Core" »

July 23, 2013

White House calls student loan deal 'a win for students'

President Barack Obama is calling for support for a student loan interest rate plan that links rates to the market, even though some Democrats in the Senate oppose it.

A fact sheet the White House put out today calls the bipartisan loan plan "a win for students." The plan calls for linking rates to the 10-year Treasury note once a year, plus a markup to cover government costs. That would lower rates on Stafford loans this year for all undergraduates from 6.8 percent to 3.86 percent, and for graduate students from 6.8 percent to 5.41 percent.

The White House calculates that the average undergraduate borrows $6,922 for one academic year and will save about $1,545 over the life of that loan. The administration also released estimates for the average amount borrowed and saved in interest by state.

Continue reading "White House calls student loan deal 'a win for students' " »

July 17, 2013

Senators, president meet at White House, but still no new student loan rates

Sen. Richard Burr was one of a group of senators who met with President Barack Obama at the White House last night to try to find a solution on student loan interest rates.

Robert Reid, a spokesman for the North Carolina Republican senator, confirmed that Burr attended the meeting. Burr has been one of proponents of a plan that permanently ties student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury rate plus a percent amount to cover the government's costs of the loan program. It's similar to a plan Obama proposed in the spring.

Others attending the White House meeting last night, according to CQ, included Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the most senior Republican on the HELP committee.

Rates on subsidized student loans went up from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1 when Congress failed to hit a deadline on a new rate plan. The plan being negotiated would cover all student loans, not just subsidized undergraduate ones (those that don't accrue interest while the student is in school).

Continue reading "Senators, president meet at White House, but still no new student loan rates" »

July 11, 2013

Compromise closer in Congress on student loan interest rate plan

    Senators have reached a tentative agreement on a plan that will tie student loan interest rates to the market.

    If it goes through, the plan would make rates on all types of student loans cheaper for the next school year. But in the future, student loans along with all other kinds of loans would cost more if rates go up, as they're expected to do.

    In a meeting Wednesday night, Republican and Democratic senators agreed on a rate of the 10-year Treasury note rate plus 1.8 percent, which would make rates for all undergraduates 3.6 percent this year, a Senate aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal isn't final. The rates would be locked in for the life of the loan. Rates on new loans would be set once a year. And there would be a cap of 8.25 percent on undergraduate loans.

  The cap was a major sticking point until the agreement yesterday. An earlier market-based rate plan offered by a bipartisan group of senators didn't have one. A cap removes risk and therefore has cost.

    Later on Thursday the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the loan program set up this way would cost $22 billion over 10 years because of the cap. Now a group of senators will have to negotiate some more over how to set the rates so that the student loan program is revenue neutral.

Continue reading "Compromise closer in Congress on student loan interest rate plan" »

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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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