College debtors definitely have a friend in President Biden. So far, his administration has approved $25 billion in loan forgiveness. In addition, it paused student borrowers' monthly payment obligations until the end of 2022.
More relief is on the way. President Biden announced loan cancelation of up to $20,000 per student borrower. The Congressional Budget Office predicts the program will cost $400 billion.
And that ain't all. The U.S. Department is working on a more generous income-based repayment plan (IBRP), which--for some borrowers--will amount to a free college education.
Adam Looney, writing for the Brookings Institution, analyzed Biden's new IBRP; his findings are astonishing. As Mr. Looney explains, undergraduate borrowers can enter into an IBRP that only requires them to pay 5 percent of their annual income over $33,000.
For example, unmarried college graduates who make $50,000 a year will only be obligated to pay about $70 per month on student loans--regardless of how much they borrowed.
What if the monthly payment isn't enough to cover accruing interest? No problem! The government will forgive the unpaid interest, so loan balances don't grow.
Now that's a sweet deal!
On average, Looney concludes, student borrowers can expect to pay back only 50 cents on every dollar borrowed, and some will never make a single loan payment.
Looney predicts the new IBRP will lead to increased borrowing. Why? "Because when . . . students are offered a substantial discount by paying with a federal loan, they will borrow billions more each year."
As Looney pointed out in his report, students can take out student loans to cover their tuition and living expenses. Students who receive checks for living expenses can deposit them in their bank accounts, knowing they may not have to pay back their student loans.
As Looney put it, "Some people will use [student] loans like an ATM, which will be costly to taxpayers and is certainly not the intended use of the loans."
Looney also predicts that Biden's incredibly generous IBRP will lead to tuition inflation.
He thinks the new IBRP will prompt colleges to create new and expensive programs to juice their revenues. "My fear," he wrote, "with regards to overall college costs, is that institutions will have an incentive to create valueless programs and aggressively recruit students into those programs with promises they will be free under an IDRP plan.
I'm in favor of student-loan relief. Millions of Americans are saddled with crippling debt for college degrees that did not benefit them financially. Let's give those folks a break.
But President Biden's new IDRP program goes too far. Adam Looney is right: Biden's poorly-designed IBRP will encourage students to borrow more and more money to attend college, knowing they will not be obligated to pay back their loans.
A student-loan bonanza is coming soon to your hometown.