NEW YORK (MainStreet) — ”Debt-free college” has become the buzz phrase of choice at a time when nearly everyone seems to be talking about student debt while no one does anything about it except borrow more money.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), who has famously declared herself a non-candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has embraced Debt Free College and spelled out her own plan, which focuses on the debt load at public colleges and universities. Hillary Clinton, who needs to shore up her bona fides with Millennial voters, has hinted that she may throw her hat into the debt-free college ring, going so far as to say that college should be as "debt-free as possible." A Higher Education Promise for the 21st Century, a manifesto from non-profit The Young Invincibles, homes in on the borrower’s monthly payments and wants to "cut existing debt payments by as much as 70% for the typical current borrower."
But the money will have to come from somewhere. The Higher Education Act (HEA), first passed in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and last reauthorized in 2008, is the source of all Title IV Federal funding for education and is due to be reauthorized this year. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which funds primary and secondary education and is also a Great Society law, will be passed before the HEA.
"ESEA reauthorization is on time, even a little ahead of schedule, and there are plans to move onto HEA reauthorization when ESEA is done, despite the upcoming elections," said Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president and publisher of Edvisors.com, a website that provides intelligence on student loans.
So if you're a Millennial with college plans for the fall and waiting for Uncle Sam to show you the money, what can you expect?
"I don’t expect that there will be big changes to the HEA when it's reauthorized," Kantrowitz said. "We’ll see better counseling and better disclosures, maybe some streamlining and simplification, but no new money for student aid.”