With a new administration in the White House comes the potential for big changes to federal student loan policy. While Trump hasn't unveiled any plans yet, he did make big promises on the campaign trail.
But do borrowers want what Trump is offering? And do they expect any change to actually happen over the next four years? A new survey from Student Loan Hero brings light to some of these questions.
President Trump's Plans for Dealing With the Student Loan Crisis
During his presidential campaign, Trump proposed major changes to student loans. One of the biggest shifts he suggested was changing the rules surrounding student loan repayment.
Currently, borrowers who qualify for federal income-driven repayment (IDR) plans such as Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) can have their monthly payments capped at 10 to 20% of their discretionary income. After 20 to 25 years, depending on the specific plan, any remaining student loan debt is discharged (borrowers must still pay taxes on the forgiven debt).
Trump proposed capping student loan payments at 12.5% of discretionary income for all student loan borrowers, including those with private loans. The government would also forgive student loan debt for all borrowers after 15 years of consistent repayment. This would not only make income-driven repayment a possibility for all student loan borrowers, but also result in significant interest savings thanks to a shorter forgiveness timeline.
President Trump has also stated an interest in minimizing the government's role in student lending and shifting toward greater privatization. Private banks would step in as the primary lenders of student loans, rather than the federal government. To qualify for a loan, students would have to prove they have high future earning potential.
This shift to privatization could dismantle current federal student loan forgiveness programs, such as Public Student Loan Forgiveness and career-based forgiveness programs for teachers, doctors, and more. However, existing borrowers would likely be grandfathered into the new income-based repayment system.
What Do Borrowers Think About Trump's Plans for Student Loans?
Student Loan Hero conducted a recent survey of more than 1,000 student loan borrowers to gather their opinions on upcoming policy changes.
As it turned out, many respondents supported Trump's proposal for a revamped income-based repayment program; however, they weren't confident that dramatic changes were really about to take place.
When asked which of Trump's plans they would most like to see enacted, 44.3% selected "federal student loan forgiveness after 15 years." An additional 31% would like a federal student loan refinancing program to lower their interest rates. Currently, refinancing is only available through private lenders, which means losing access to federal benefits such as IDR plans and forgiveness programs.
On the other hand, few respondents felt optimistic that these changes will happen under the Trump administration. Some 40% of respondents stated they believe the new administration will have a "somewhat negative" or "very negative" effect on student loans. Another 41% didn't think the administration will have a positive or negative effect.
The survey also unearthed a surprising and worrisome statistic. Almost 20% of respondents had either reduced payments or or stopped paying their loans completely in the hopes that a national loan forgiveness program will be enacted some day. In fact, 61% of borrowers with $50,000 or more in loans admitted taking this risky route.
Options for managing student loan payments
At this point, there aren't any plans for a national student loan forgiveness program in the works. Borrowers who stop paying their loans in the hopes that there will be one risk defaulting on their loans, a major hit to their credit, wage garnishment, and an inability to take out loans in the future.
Instead of putting yourself in this bad position, take advantage of the programs that do exist today if you need help repaying your student loans.
Income-driven repayment: Anyone struggling to meet their minimum monthly payment should look into the four income-driven repayment plans that exist today. As mentioned above, IDR plans cap payments at a percentage of your income and result in loan forgiveness if you have a balance left over at the end of the repayment term.
Student loan refinancing: The government doesn't offer refinancing, but you can refinance both your federal and private loans through a private bank. If you don't need access to federal benefits such as IDR, deferment/forbearance, and PSLF, refinancing can help save thousands of dollars in interest charges.
Student loan forgiveness programs: Public Service Loan Forgiveness is just one of the many student loan forgiveness programs that exist. To find out if you qualify for a program based on your career field, where you live, or where you went to school, check out a full list of student loan forgiveness programs to see if any match your qualifications.
Employee benefits: With so many graduates dealing with student loan debt, more companies are offering help as part of their benefits packages. Check with your Human Resources department to find out if your employer offers student loan repayment assistance.
Today, over 44 million Americans bear the weight of nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. Only time will tell what changes the new administration plans to make to federal repayment and forgiveness programs. Until then, we can all manage student loans responsibly and work to solve this debt crisis together.
Andrew Josuweit is the CEO and founder of Student Loan Hero.