AOTA Federal Policy is a blog maintained by AOTA’s Federal and Regulatory Affairs Departments, covering the latest happenings in Congress, the White House, and across the federal agencies. While the battles of Washington often seem far removed from your role as a practitioner, student, educator, or business owner, public policy undoubtedly shapes the way you practice, what you are paid, and who you’re able to see. We hope this blog serves as a means to bring you closer to the process and keep you up to date on the latest federal issues affecting your practice.
In addition to the content on this blog, you can still find regular updates and information on our Congressional Affairs and Regulatory Affairs pages by visiting AOTA’s website including our Legislative Action Center.
The conversation in Washington around student loan debt has continued to grow, as more and more young adults are struggling to find jobs and pay back significant loans. More students than ever, 71% of undergraduates, are relying on student loans to pay for college; the amount students borrow for both undergraduate and graduate degrees continues to increase.
On Monday, President Barrack Obama signed a memorandum to the Department Education, directing it to take steps to develop options and regulations to reduce the burden of student loans. These steps include limiting federal student loan payments to no more than 10% of a person's income. Additionally the memorandum requires companies that service student loans to work with borrowers who are struggling, in order to help them to pay back the loans without defaulting. You can read the White House’s press release, President Obama's statement here, and his memorandum to the Department of Education.
The President also encouraged Congress to take necessary legislative action as many student loan requirements are dictated by statute. On Wednesday, the Senate began consideration of a bill introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would allow student loans to be refinanced at a lower rate. This ability to refinance would apply to undergraduate and graduate loans, and would apply to federal loans and some private loans. This bill is controversial because it would pay for the refinancing through a new tax on millionaires. Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the bill, making it unclear whether there will be a robust debate on the bill and its pay for.
For more information you can read the Boston Globe’s take on the Senate bill and President Obama's memorandum, before consideration of the bill and their report on the Senate action Wednesday.
If you wish to express your opinion, a petition in support of Warren’s bill has been started at MoveOn.org. Additionally you can read a Republican Senate policy document on student loans from 2013.