President Obama and the Student Aid Bill of Rights

President Obama

It’s been almost a month since President Obama spoke about improving college education opportunities during his State of the Union address, and now we have a new development: on March 10, the White House released a Fact Sheet on the new Student Aid Bill of Rights: Taking Action to Ensure Strong Consumer Protections for Student Loan Borrowers.

What does this Student Aid Bill of Rights include?

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

I. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.

II. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college.

III. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan.

IV. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans.

For a quick overview, here’s Obama explaining the Student Aid Bill of Rights on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

I am absolutely certain I misunderstood that opening exchange, where Kimmel says “It wasn’t so long ago that you were still paying off student loans,” and Obama replies “Still paying them off.” Our president meant he used to be paying off student loans, right?

I checked online, and it appears that Obama finished paying off his student loans in 2004, when he was 43. That’s nine years after he published Dreams From My Father. By 2004 he had already served in the Illinois Senate and had just been elected to the United States Senate. And he was still paying off student loans.

The full plan for the Student Aid Bill of Rights (which you can read in the Fact Sheet) includes Obama’s plan to make the first two years of community college free for students, so they can get general education credits and prepare to finish their community college degree or transition into a four-year college.

The Bill of Rights also includes plans for a Responsive Student Feedback System:

The Secretary of Education will create a new web site by July 1, 2016, to give students and borrowers a simple and straightforward way to file complaints and provide feedback about federal student loan lenders, servicers, collections agencies, and institutions of higher education.

And, of course, there are various provisions and plans to make paying off student loans an easier and more transparent process.

Kimmel rightly asks if this new Student Aid Bill of Rights will apply to existing student loans, and Obama explains that there will be opportunities to help people who currently have student debt, including refinancing options.

I am excited to learn more about the Student Aid Bill of Rights, and I hope that student aid reform and free community college options will help the Homeland Generation manage their education in an accessible and cost-effective way, and that they won’t be stuck paying off student loans until they’re 43 years old.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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