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6/12/2014
Student loans

It is hoped colleges and universities will take part in President Obama's effort to help students with the cost of an education.

Because Obama is doing his part — maybe more than his part. He has expanded the Pay as You Earn program that limits college loan repayments to 10 percent of a student's or graduate's monthly discretionary income. That is apart from basic living expenses, such as housing and food.

The expansion takes effect in 2015.

The federal government offers a variety of repayment plans. They include repayments based on income, graduated repayment and forgiveness of part of the debt if payments are made on time or a graduate enters public service.

Many plans canceled balances due after 25 years of payment. Obama's new plan would change the number of years to 20; for public service employees, that number could be 10 years.

Obama says that the cost of a four-year college education has tripled in recent decades. As many as three-fourths of graduates leave class owing almost $30,000 in education loans, he says.

Whether those increased costs can be traced to personnel, which is often the most expensive item in a budget for an institution with employees, or to facilities or something else, colleges and universities should be looking at reducing costs as well.

While student loan repayment might be configured in a way that eases the pressure on students and graduates, it will increase the cost of government. And, someone, i.e. the taxpayer, will be required to cover that cost.

Obama should be telling taxpayers what this will cost. The expansion also should be implemented carefully. The poorly conducted implementation of the Affordable Care Act still is being corrected. No sense in adding education loans to the list of costly catastrophes the White House undoubtedly feels overwhelmed by.

Education is important. People do better all the way around with an education, and, as a result, communities and businesses seeking employees and leaders succeed beyond what they would with a less educated workforce.

But the government — Obama —should be careful not to simply shift the student-loan financial burden to a government that already cannot afford itself. Colleges and universities have responsibility in reducing the cost of education, too.