Accueil > Revue de presse > À l’étranger > Eclaircissements sur les dettes des étudiants américains et les mesures (...)

Eclaircissements sur les dettes des étudiants américains et les mesures annoncées par le président Obama, "Clearing Up Some Confusion About the New Federal Student Loan Rules", Ron Lieber, New York Times, 26 octobre 2011

jeudi 27 octobre 2011, par Bobby

Vous avez toujours voulu comprendre l’économie des prêts universitaires américains ainsi que les propositions de réforme récentes ?
Vous êtes tenté(e) par une hausse des frais d’inscription en France mais en redoutez un peu les conséquences dans le contexte actuel ?
Cet article du New York Times est pour vous !

Note de SLU :
- Si vous n’avez pas tout compris à la première lecture, il est conseillé de procéder à une deuxième lecture.
- Si des détails vous échappent à la deuxième lecture, une troisième lecture peut être accompagnée de l’examen parallèle des propositions de la fondation Terra Nova
- Ultime solution : si vous voulez vraiment tout comprendre au système des prêts universitaires, SLU conseille de s’inscrire en MBA dans une prestigieuse université américaine, de contracter donc un emprunt étudiant. La lumineuse simplicité du système apparaîtra...

Pour lire cet article sur le site du New York Times.

On Wednesday, President Obama introduced two changes to the federal student loan program that could affect several million borrowers. The broad outlines of his plans to encourage loan consolidation and assist people who are struggling financially are reasonably clear.

But if the questions sent to our Bucks blog from indebted people are any indication, any change in Student Loan Land almost inevitably leads to enormous confusion. Many questions had to do with whether private loans, the kind that come from banks and often have higher and variable interest rates, are part of these changes. Nothing is changing with those loans.

This is crucial, since many of the people in the worst sort of trouble — the ones you’ve read about with six-figure balances — often have both private loans and federal loans.

Instead, only those with different kinds of federal loans — an estimated 5.8 million borrowers — will be able to consolidate them into one loan under the new plan and also save themselves a bit of money.

Borrowers also remain befuddled about the confusing eligibility requirements of a two-year-old program that limits the monthly payment for certain federal student loan borrowers based on their income and then forgives any remaining debt after 25 years.

Starting sometime next year, the limit will be cut by a third for certain borrowers, and that will lower payments. Also, loan forgiveness will happen after 20 years. (The income-related changes were already scheduled to happen in 2014, but they will occur sooner now.)

Today, at least 450,000 people participate in the federal income-based repayment program that started about two years ago, though there are probably many more borrowers who are eligible but don’t know about it or haven’t figured out how to sign up.

I’ve answered as many of the reader queries as I can below, and will answer more on the Bucks blog in the coming weeks.

Q. Who is eligible ?

A. People with at least one federal loan that they borrowed directly from the federal government and at least one that originated with a bank or other lender. If you have a bunch of bank-issued federal loans but no loan directly from the government, you can consolidate them under an older federal program, but it won’t save you as much money.

The PLUS loans that some graduate students have taken out in recent years are eligible. Perkins Loans and many federal loans for people entering health professions are not eligible. And again, private student loans are not part of the mix here either.

Also, if you’re in default on the loans, you won’t be eligible.

Q. How do I know what kind of loan I have ?

A. Don’t be embarrassed to ask, since many people have forgotten or never knew in the first place. Call your lenders now and ask them. The Education Department plans to inform all eligible borrowers in January as well. If you haven’t heard from them by the end of that month, call them at 1-800-4FEDAID (1-800-433-3243) and ask.

Q. Is there a limit to the number of federal loans I can consolidate ?

A. No.

Q. What will I save if I consolidate under the new program ?

A. It depends, and the formula for calculating your new interest rate is complex.

First, you’ll subtract 25 basis points (a quarter of a percentage point) from the interest rate of your federal loan that a bank or other lender originated. You can also subtract another 25 basis points for both those bank loans and any loans that came from the federal government directly if you agree, once the loans are consolidated, to let the federal government (which will be the new lender of record) pull the payment automatically from your bank account each month.

The new rate will then be a weighted average of the two (newly discounted) rates from the two different types of loans, based on the balances of each loan.

Q. When can I sign up, and for how long ?

A. Enrollment should begin in January and is scheduled to end on June 30, 2012.

Q. Can this help me make more of my federal loans eligible for forgiveness if I work in certain public service jobs ?

A. Yes. The only federal loans that are eligible for that forgiveness plan are ones in the federal direct program, which is where you end up when you consolidate your federal student loans in this fashion. By consolidating, older federal loans that banks originated for you would then become eligible.

Q. What if I recently consolidated ? Can I unconsolidate to take advantage of this new discount ?

A. No.

Q. Who is eligible for these income-based repayment plans in the first place ?

A. Eligibility is based on something known as “discretionary” income, which the federal government defines as anything above 150 percent of the poverty level. The poverty level depends on your state and the size of your family. The big idea here is to only allow people to qualify whose income makes it hard to afford their full federal student loan payments. (Private loans do not factor into income-based repayment.)

All of this is outlined in plain English on, a Web site maintained by a nonprofit group called the Project on Student Debt. Your lender or the company servicing your loan will decide whether you’re eligible.

Q. What is changing with these programs as a result of Wednesday’s announcement ?

A. Currently, people who qualify pay no more than 15 percent of their discretionary income toward federal student loan payments each month. You only have to make payments for 25 years, even if there’s still a balance left.

The new plan will lower the cap to 10 percent of discretionary income and waive any balances after 20 years of repayment. (Again, better deals are available for people who are working in certain public service jobs.)

Q. Any other catches ?

A. Yes. This new income-based plan is not available to people who graduated in 2011 or earlier and have no plans to take out any new federal loans. Instead, you must have at least one federal loan from no earlier than 2008 and also take out one more in 2012 or later to qualify.

Graduate students are eligible, too, but you have to have taken your first loan out no earlier than 2008 to qualify, in addition to taking out at least one more in 2012 or later. So if you’re a sixth-year doctoral student, this might not work for you. That said, you might be eligible for the older, less generous plan.

Also, here too, your loans can’t be in default. This was disappointing to Robert Applebaum, the founder of His two-year-old movement along with the petition he started on the White House’s Web site helped inspire the adjustments to the federal loan programs.

“Income-based repayment is fantastic if all you have are federal loans and are current on your repayments,” said Mr. Applebaum, 37, who lives on Staten Island and is current on his own student loans. “But people are drowning in debt and penalties, and the government has made it so that first you have to get your head above water. Another step could have been to eliminate that requirement, and they didn’t.”

Q. What if I still have questions ?

A. The financial aid ace Mark Kantrowitz of has posted his take on the announcement on the Choice blog. Otherwise, call the Education Department and keep an eye on and the Project on Student Debt’s Web site for more details as they become available.