One in five Washington D.C. residents has student loan debt, making the city home to some of the most indebted residents in the country. This is especially burdensome because residents also shoulder a high cost of living, but new student loan legislation aims to ease this financial burden according to the Washington Post.

David Grosso is an Independent D.C. Council member, and last week, Grosso proposed a bill that would bring student loan forgiveness to D.C. area residents. Under this bill, the city would cover five years of loan payments for student borrowers that earn less than $75,000 annually and married couples with a yearly income lower than $95,000. Students would be eligible to apply for benefits within two years after graduation.

Grosso, who is currently chairman of the education committee, did not lay out any projections for how much the program will cost. He did say that requiring applicants to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan could help minimize expenses. The five-year timeline proposed by Grosso could also serve as a way to limit the cost of the program. However, if a large number of residents sign up, the costs could still run high.

This bill comes during a time of uncertainty for many student loan borrowers. Last June, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delayed the Borrower Defense Rule, a policy designed to offer loan relief to borrowers who had been defrauded by for-profit colleges. And now some people worry that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program may meet a similar fate.

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Congress enacted PSLF ten years ago under President Bush. The program offers loan forgiveness to borrowers after ten years of working in public service while making loan payments. According to Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, PSLF was enacted because it was assumed that few people would apply and qualify.

The reality is that the success of PSLF may be its downfall; more than 25 percent of the U.S. workforce qualifies under the current statutes. The Congressional Budget Office originally estimated that PSLF will cost $24 billion in the next ten years which exceeds original predictions according to The Student Loan Report.

PSLF is now entering its tenth year, meaning borrowers should start receiving forgiveness this month. However, President Trump’s 2018 fiscal budget proposed eliminating the program altogether after July 2018, potentially leavings millions on the hook for loans after taking lower paying jobs to qualify for forgiveness.

Increasingly, cities and states such as Washington D.C. see the need to step in and help the 44 million Americans who hold $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues in the midst of these federal rollbacks on student loan protections.


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