As college costs increase and more students fund their education through borrowing, debt load and delinquency rates have become significant problems on a number of levels. Student loan obligations are challenging to manage for new graduates with lower earnings and borrowers in financial hardship. This paper discusses the federal student loan repayment relief programs that are available and estimates their borrower and fiscal impacts. The implications of relief plans on borrowers’ costs and the federal budget vary for different loan amounts, income levels, and relief program.
It is challenging for policymakers to design programs that adequately balance the risks between borrowers and taxpayers. Existing programs are also tremendously complicated, making it difficult for borrowers to make informed decisions on repayment programs. This paper examines how the various programs work in practice and considers their likely outcomes over a set of income-debt-program scenarios to bring much needed clarity to the repayment environment. In our analysis, lower-income borrowers and borrowers who will have significant remaining balance forgiven at the end of the required repayment period are generally more likely to benefit from student loan relief programs, but participation of these borrowers can be very costly from a fiscal perspective.