U.S. Announces Rulemaking on Income-Based Repayment

December 19, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education is soliciting nominations for its rulemaking panel that will convene next year to carry out President Obama's directive to make an additional 5 million loan borrowers eligible for federal government’s most generous income-based repayment program.

The department will publish a notice in tomorrow's Federal Register that it is seeking negotiated-rulemaking committee members from a range of constituencies, such as student groups, consumer advocacy organizations, and various types of colleges and universities. 

The panel will next year begin hashing out the details for expanding Obama's income-based repayment program, known as Pay As You Earn, which caps borrowers' monthly payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income and forgives any remaining debt after 20 years.

The department has not yet put a price tag on how much the expansion will cost. It’s also unclear whether the rulemaking panel will consider some of the reforms to income-based repayment programs -- like capping the benefits for high-income, high-debt borrowers -- that the administration has previously proposed.

The Education Department will host three-day sessions of negotiations in February, March and April of next year.

The rulemaking committee, the department announced, will also consider changes to how active-duty servicemembers access federal loan benefits under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The companies that process federal loans have sparred with the Education Department over, among other things, what type of documentation is needed to provide servicemembers with a discount on their loan's interest rate. The issue cropped up earlier this year as part of the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit against Sallie Mae, which alleged that the company overcharged servicemembers.

The company, whose loan-servicing operations have since been separated into a company called Navient, paid $97 million to settle the case.

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