Having paid toward the college expenses of all three of my children, I understand the enormous burden higher education costs can place on middle-income families. I am committed to adequately funding important federal student financial aid programs to ensure that all students, regardless of income, are able to use their God-given talents to pursue their dreams of a quality post-secondary education.
I am certainly aware that student loans can place significant financial strain on individuals and families. I supported the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which lessened the burden of student loan debt and created new loan forgiveness opportunities. This legislation created the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan, which helps students manage their loan debt by capping monthly payments at an amount that is intended to be affordable based upon a person’s income and family size. In addition, this legislation created a new loan forgiveness program that forgives student loans for those who are employed for ten years in full-time public service jobs. I also supported the Higher Education and Opportunity Affordability Act, which broadened the eligibility for loan forgiveness for additional professions, including teachers, nurses, school counselors, child welfare workers, and other professions that support public needs. For more information about these programs, I encourage you to review these Fact Sheets from the U.S. Department of Education about the IBR plan and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
I am proud of my record as a long-time supporter of federal efforts to help students pursue their educational goals. In 2010, the Senate passed the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, which I supported and President Obama signed into law. This legislation helps borrowers manage their student loan debt by further capping student loan payments for new borrowers who assume loans after July 1, 2014. If borrowers keep up with their payments over time, they will have their balance forgiven after 20 years, instead of 25 years. The reconciliation bill also represented a historic expansion of our country’s Pell Grant program. As a result of the legislation, the maximum annual Pell Grant award for students will increase from $5,550 in 2010 to $5,975 by 2017 to ensure that this financial assistance does a better job keeping pace with rising inflation. Despite the recent changes, students and families will still apply for federal financial aid and loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The Obama Administration launched the “Pay As You Earn” initiative in October 2011 to provide more immediate assistance to borrowers struggling to repay their student loans. Pay As You Earn allowed as many as 1.6 million student loan borrowers nationwide, including an estimated 6,000 South Dakotans, to lower their monthly payments to 10%, with forgiveness after 20 years of payments. Please click here to learn more about Pay As You Earn.
I will continue working with my Senate colleagues to ensure that higher education is accessible and affordable to any student who qualifies to attend. South Dakota is home to some truly great colleges, universities, technical schools, and tribal colleges and universities. For additional financial aid information, please click here.
Higher Education Opportunities in South Dakota: