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Harkin Welcomes Action from President Obama to Help Students Manage Federal Loan Debt

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement today welcoming an Executive Order from President Obama that will allow an additional five million borrowers with Federal Direct student loans to cap their monthly payments at just 10 percent of their income, according to the White House.

“The average college student today is saddled with more than $29,000 in federal student loan debt. That is debt holding young Americans in Iowa and around the country back from buying a home, investing in a small business, or starting a family.  I applaud the President for taking action to ease the burden of federal student loan debt for struggling borrowers,” Harkin said. “I am also pleased to see critical steps taken to ensure that servicemembers are getting the benefits they’ve earned through their service to our country. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which the HELP Committee has been focused on for the last nine months, will present a historic opportunity for Congress to focus on college affordability and accountability, help borrowers with existing student debt, and increase transparency so students and families can make informed decisions. I look forward to continued work with members of the Committee to achieve these shared goals.”

Harkin, as Chair of the HELP Committee, has convened ten hearings focused on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the main federal law overseeing the higher education system in the United States. Hearings to date have focused on the “triad” – the United States’ three-legged system of oversight and accountability in higher education; innovations to improve student success and degree attainment; federal student aid simplification to help ensure equal access to higher education for all students; an examination of the U.S. accreditation system; a look at ways to strengthen the TRIO and GEAR UP programs to ensure low-income students have the tools they need to access and persist through college; a roundtable on promoting college access for students with disabilities; the role of teacher preparation programs in promoting student success; the federal student loan program; best practices and innovations for student success at minority-serving institutions; and access and supports for servicemembers and veterans.