President Barack Obama on Monday will throw his support behind a new proposal to dramatically revamp the federal student loan program, according to the White House.
A bill proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would allow borrowers to potentially save thousands of dollars by giving them a chance to effectively pay off their high-rate existing loans in exchange for new loans that carry substantially lower interest rates.
The Obama administration initially was hesitant to fully embrace the bill because of disagreements over how to pay for it. But with mounting pressure from advocacy groups, and with a renewed political focus on issues confronting working families, the president has softened his opposition. Obama's endorsement would be the latest recognition to date of the ascendance of Warren-style populism within the Democratic Party.
An administration official told The Huffington Post that Obama is expected to "call for passage of the refinancing bill" when it comes up for a vote, as it is scheduled to do next week.
Student groups and other organizations focusing on younger Americans enthusiastically support Warren's bill, under which new interest rates would range from 3.86 percent for loans taken out by borrowers when they were undergraduates to 6.41 percent for parents who took out loans for their children's college tuition, as well as for borrowers who took out loans to pay for graduate school.
The financial industry, perhaps not surprisingly, is less enamored with the proposal. The bill would allow borrowers to refinance loans owned by the private sector into new loans made by the Education Department. Paying off loans early deprives lenders of future interest income, causing paper losses.
Republicans appear to be dead set against enacting the proposal into law, but for different reasons. The Democrats proposed to offset the loss of future federal revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy -- a pay-for idea that is anathema in conservative circles.