DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - President Obama Monday signed a Presidential memorandum limiting the payment on federally-backed student loans to just 10 percent of income, and sending a bill to Congress to help pay lenders for the difference.
The average amount students from Texas owe is $24,000. But it's small compared to some states.
John Radzwilla, now an account manager for Real News PR in Dallas, came out of Penn State with a sheepskin and a huge student loan. "I had round about $60,000," he told CBS-11 News. "It is hard. It's a hole I had to dig myself out of."
He paid $681 dollars a month at first following graduation in 2008. Recently married, his wife has college loan, too. "Now, I realize I have debt. That is my responsibility, that was my choice to take on that debt. But the way that it's set up I could be paying on that debt for the next 20-years." Radzwilla says he tries to pay more than the minimum amount every month so that his interest rate will go down. "The quicker I can get out from underneath my student loan the quicker I can allocate that money to something else."
Most people would agree that a deserving student needing money should be able to get it. But the issues become, where does it come from? And who pays for it? "There is no such thing as a ‘free lunch,'" says Steve Scanlon, a financial strategist with Guardvest.
Scanlon worries proposed legislation will reimburse lenders with money taken from the wealthy by closing tax loopholes. "So it's going to cost the government $58 billion, but they're going to make it up by charging the wealthiest 1 percent $72 billion to pay for this. I think that's going to spark an awfully lot of debate."
Scanlon isn't sure whether deferring some of the loans will help boost the economy. "And so you might be giving the younger Americans coming out of college more opportunity to spend money and drive the economy, but you're going to take money out of the pockets of many of the job-creators out there. That's where I think the major, major problem is going to be in the House and the Senate."
The President fired the opening salvo from the White House, challenging Congress to take up his plan. "And I want Americans to pay attention to see where their lawmakers priorities lie here. Lower tax bills for millionaires and lower student loan bills for the middle class."
But Scanlon cautions the wealthy already pay significant taxes. "They've got the highest tax bracket they've had in years, capital gains have gone up, Healthcare surtaxes. And I think, again, they're going to feel a little bit like an ATM machine."
Scanlon had his own student loans to repay. He says the real problem is college expenses tripling the past 30-years. Radnizilla would agree, and says students don't frequently think through the issue of student loans. "When you're in college and your signing those kinds of things, you're not thinking of the big picture. You're thinking, ‘I need to get to class.' Now it hits me: that's a car, that's a small mortgage payment, that's my rent."