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Jeb Bush proposes holding colleges responsible for loans graduates don't pay back

By Amy R. Connolly   |   Updated Jan. 19, 2016 at 3:16 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is calling for sweeping changes to the nation's education system and student loans, including giving high school graduates access to a $50,000 line of credit to pay for college and allowing borrowers to discharge private education loans through bankruptcy.

Bush, in his newly released education plan, also said colleges and career-training programs must have "skin in the game" by holding them responsible for a portion of federal loans alumni are unable to repay. It's a move he says will "incentivize them to reduce costs and ensure that students graduate with the skills needed to succeed."

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Bush supports giving all high school graduates access to the line of credit for education and career programs as part of an education savings account. Students would repay 1 percent of their income for 25 years for every $10,000 spent.

"This ensures affordable repayment, removes risk of default and protects students during periods of unemployment, while the [education savings account] structure gives students flexibility and the incentive to be cost-conscious," he said.

Bush's plan is just part of the nationwide push to alleviate crushing college costs and outstanding student loan debt. Rising college costs have pushed higher education debt to $1.2 trillion nationwide, with about $103 billion in default.

Bush also supports allowing borrowers with existing debt to transfer into a new income-based repayment system and said he will "make federal debt collection more transparent, simple and fair," addressing criticisms student loan collection agencies use devious tactics to collect outstanding funds. His plan also calls for an extended debt repayment period and an easier transition to income-based repayment programs created under President Barack Obama.

Building on his reputation as the "education governor," Bush proposed an overhaul of the K-12 education system that would decrease the role of the federal government, giving more control to states. His proposal is based on four principles: education decisions that are made closer to home; expanding school choice; increased transparency; and greater innovation.

He would allow for converting 529 college savings accounts into education savings accounts that can be used for schooling from pre-K though college, job training, tutoring, summer school and online classes. States would be allowed to deposit $2,500 a year into the account of every low-income child, age 5 and younger.

As Florida governor from 1999 to 2007, Bush was known for impacting academic achievement and educational standards, embracing school choice, standardized testing, charter schools and a now-defunct school voucher system. He was hailed as an aggressive education policy maker but also often at odds with teachers unions. Still, he said his history allows him the chance to create a program that serves the needs of families and students.

"I know what needs to be done," he said. "As governor of Florida, I increased student achievement across the board, particularly for those most at risk, and as president, I will do the same."

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