October 21, 1997
The Administration opposes the reported version of H.R. 2535, the"Emergency
Student Loan Consolidation Act of 1997", and will work to amend the bill in
the Senate in at least two respects. First, H.R. 2535 needs to be amended
to ensure that all student loan borrowers who are seeking to consolidate
their loans are treated equitably and provided consolidation benefits
comparable to those available in the direct loan program (with the
exception of income-contingent repayment). In addition, the bill needs to
be amended so that services to student loan borrowers under both the direct
loan and the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) programs are not
impaired by reducing funds available for administrative expenses.
Allowing direct loan borrowers to consolidate their student loans into the Government guaranteed FFEL program only addresses one-third of those loan consolidation applications in the backlog. The other two-thirds are either not being served by, or are unsatisfied with, the FFEL program and are seeking another option. These amendments are necessary to ensure that the FFEL program is open to serving all of the borrowers who are served by direct lending, offering similar flexibility in repayment.
The Department of Education's private-sector contractor is now on track to eliminate the backlog of direct consolidation loan applications, resume accepting new applications by December 1st, and process them on a timely basis. Nevertheless, the Administration would support a bill that truly benefits student borrowers seeking to consolidate their loans.
The Administration will work in the Senate to amend the bill. At a minimum, the bill must be amended to:
The Administration is pleased that the reported version of H.R. 2535 includes the Administration's proposal to ensure that a student is able to enjoy the full benefit of the new HOPE Scholarship or Lifetime Learning tax credit without jeopardizing his or her future eligibility for student financial assistance. The inclusion of this proposal, however, does not overcome the bill's shortcomings as described above.
H.R. 2535 would affect direct spending and receipts; therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. OMB estimates that H.R. 2535 would result in a net decrease in direct spending of $6.6 million in FY 1998 and a total of $19.6 million in FYs 1998-2002.
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