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Focus on higher education.

Over the last two weeks, the Administration has made several major announcements in higher education.

First, on June 5 at the White House, Vice President Biden, Secretary Duncan, and Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray met with the presidents and senior officials of 10 colleges, universities, and state systems of higher education from across the country to discuss the importance of providing students and families with transparent information about the cost of attendance and financial assistance. These schools have committed to provide all incoming students the following key pieces of information, as part of their financial aid package, beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year:

* how much one year of college will cost;

* financial aid options to pay this cost, with a clear differentiation between grants and scholarships, which do not have to be repaid, and loans, which do;

* net costs after grants and scholarships are taken into account;

* estimated monthly payments for federal student loans the student would likely owe after graduation; and

* information about student results, including comparative information about the rates at which students enroll from one year to the next, graduate, and repay their loans without defaulting on their obligation.

As the Vice President noted, this commitment is "going to empower students and their families to be back in the driver's seat when they're choosing a college and how to pay for that education." (Note: Immediately after this convening, Secretary Duncan and Director Cordray joined White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and called on all college and university presidents to make the same commitment to provide transparent information.)

Next, on June 7 at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV), President Obama reasserted his call for Congress to stop student loan interest rates from doubling (from 3.4% to 6.8%) on July 1 and issued a Presidential Memorandum to make it easier for students to benefit from the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program, which caps borrowers' monthly student loan payments based on their ability to pay. While the Department recently removed some of the hurdles to completing the IBR process, too many borrowers are still struggling to access this option, due to difficulty in applying. The memorandum (see fact sheet) calls for the Department to:

* work with the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to streamline the IBR application process, by allowing student loan borrowers with federally held loans to import their tax return income data directly into the IBR application (meaning borrowers will no longer be required to contact their loan servicers as the first step and can complete the application in one sitting);

* enhance online and mobile resources for loan repayment options and debt management; and

* increase awareness of IBR, by instructing federal Direct loan servicers to make borrowers aware of the option to participate in IBR before a student leaves school and upon entering repayment and making available for schools a model exit counseling module.

The Department and IRS will implement the first two improvements in the coming months (enhancing online and mobile content by mid-July and streamlining the application with IRS data by the end of September), while the model exit counseling module will be available by this time next year. (Note: A blog post, detailing "everything you need to know" about IBR, is available here.)

Then, on June 12, the Department updated lists on its College Affordability and Transparency Center, highlighting institutions with the highest and lowest tuition and net price and those schools where prices are rising the fastest. In addition, this year, the agency is releasing full lists, so consumers can see how much a specific school costs in comparison to similar institutions. Schools where prices are rising the fastest will report why costs have gone up and how they will address the increases, and the Department will summarize these reports in a document.

Also, the Secretary penned an op-ed on the student loan process for the June 11 edition of Politico, and the White House Open Government Initiative blogged on how "technology, data, and entrepreneurs can help with college affordability."
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Publication:ED Review
Date:Jun 15, 2012
Words:679
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