New Plan Expands Availability Of Some Federal Student Loans For Consumers With Tarnished Credit Histories

Families hoping to assist their child in paying for college may soon have greater access to federal student loans under a plan recently finalized by the Department of Education and Obama administration.

The new plan, which could be implemented as early as next spring, would loosen credit standards for families borrowing from the Department of Education’s Parent Plus program, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Parent Plus loans are designed to cover tuition and living expenses when undergraduates reach the limits of their federal Stafford loans.

Under the new plan, the Dept. of Education will now only review the past two years of a parent’s credit history for delinquencies or debts in collection that could be disqualifiers for the loans. The current program check borrower’s past five years of credit history.

Additionally, any delinquent debts below $2,085 will not be used to disqualify borrowers. Currently any amount of delinquencies are grounds to reject an application.

Families who apply for the Parent Plus loan program and currently have damaged credit will now have to undergo credit counseling before borrowing is approved.

Officials with the Dept. of Education tell the WSJ that the changes are designed to boost college enrollment, particularly among disadvantaged youths who may otherwise be unable to afford college.

“These are families who are unable to access credit in the private market” for education, Jeff Appel, the Education Department’s deputy undersecretary, says. “It’s all with the intent of providing wider access to postsecondary education.”

While the plan is designed to give families additional resources on their road to college, some consumer groups have voiced concern that the plan would saddle consumers with excessive debt that they can’t repay.

At the crux of their issues is the fact that the plan doesn’t have safeguards in place to determine a borrowers’ ability to repay.

Officials with the Dept. of Education say current student lending laws don’t allow the government to review an applicant’s ability to repay, that such a review would require an act of Congress.

Education Department to Expand Access to Student Loans [The Wall Street Journal]