WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- Significant changes to the U.S. student loan program are in the package of fixes to the healthcare bill passed by the House and moving to the Senate.
The student aid reform package, attached to the Democrats' final amendments to the healthcare bill, would eliminate a $60 billion program that supports private student loans with federal subsidies and would replace it with government lending to students, among other things, The Washington Post reported Monday.
By ending the subsidies, the student loan bill would save $61 billion over 10 years, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said. Most of the savings, about $36 billion, would go to Pell grants, while other monies would go toward reducing the deficit and other Democratic education priorities.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called Sunday's vote "a big victory for America's students."
House Republicans and lending industry lobbyists oppose the initiative, calling it a government takeover of efficient, private-sector loan operations.
The federal government has subsidized private student lending since 1965 and began lending directly to students in the 1990s, the Post said.
The House passed the healthcare reform bill 219-212. Because it was passed by the Senate in December, the measure goes to President Obama for his signature. A separate compromise package of fixes also passed the House, 220-211, and goes to the Senate for consideration.