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Debt relief looming for our students

6/12/2014, 4:46 p.m.

Millions of current and former students will be able to breath a sigh of relief over the repayment of their student loans. Those hamstrung by oppressive student loans will be ecstatic to learn that President Barack Obama has finally lived up to one of his campaign promises: a reduction of student loan payments.

Surrounded by a coterie of students of mixed ancestry, Obama, on Monday in the East Room of the White House, signed an executive order that will allow millions of student loan borrowers to cap their payment at 10 percent of their monthly income.

That sound of relief echoed from students across the nation, particularly from the more than 70 percent of those undergraduates with outrageous debts that average nearly $30,000. For this group of students burdened with almost usurious loans and trying to start a family, the challenge is enough to stop them in their tracks and seek debt counseling.

With a stroke of the pen, Obama has answered the plea of many middle-class families already withering under a pile of bills and with very little expendable cash to help pay for their children’s education, to say nothing of the increasingly high cost of higher education.

Despite the onslaught of criticism mounting over the swap of an American soldier for five prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the miscues at Veterans Affairs, the president cleared his desk and authored something for our desperate students.

“We are here today because we believe that in America, no hardworking young person should be priced out of a higher education,” he said after signing the bill.

Those words must have been music to the ears of 5 million borrowers who were not covered by the previous reductions, including those whose loans occurred before the fall of 2007.

As with most executive orders though, it will be a while before this one is effective and begins to mean something to those mired in heavy debt.

In a related development, we are pleased that the president will support a bill proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to revamp the federal student loan program. Potentially, this bill will allow students to save thousands of dollars when paying off existing loans. The expected pushback from Senate Republicans has already begun, so this particular measure faces an uphill battle. Even so, these are good signs on the horizon for our financially strapped students and their families, and it’s at least a harbinger of light in a rather dismal economic season.

Our students are beset with a load of obstacles in obtaining a decent education in order to prepare them for a job market that becomes more international by the day. They don’t need an additional worry about what will happen to them once they have completed a minimum rung of higher education.

Obviously, we applaud Obama and Warren for these meaningful steps, and let’s hope their positive intentions outweigh the negative ones brewing in the Republican ranks.