The U.S. Department of Education will gather a panel of higher education stakeholders early next year to write the regulations needed to carry out President Obama’s orders to expand his federal income-based repayment program for student loans. The department will announce in Wednesday’s Federal Register that it plans to hold two public hearings on the plan this fall -- one in Washington and one in Anaheim, Calif. -- before it kicks off negotiated rule making sessions next February.
Officials also said they would accept comments, written and in person, about “additional issues that should be considered for action by the negotiating committee.”
Congressional Republicans have criticized the expansion of the program as a political stunt and its potential cost to taxpayers, which the Obama administration has not publicly identified. Critics also questioned the administration’s legal authority to make the changes on its own without Congressional approval.
President Obama has asked Congress to expand his income-based repayment program, known as Pay As You Earn, in his past two budget requests. But lawmakers haven’t acted on it. Consumer and student advocates have praised the plan, which will allow an additional 5 million existing student loan borrowers to cap their monthly loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income and to have any remaining loan debt forgiven after 20 years.
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