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U.S. to forgive some $108B in student loan debt, report says

By Amy R. Connolly
U.S. to forgive some $108B in student loan debt, report says
The Government Accountability Office found taxpayers will foot the bill for some $108 billion in forgiven student loans as borrowers enroll in income-driven repayment plans. Photo by zimmytws/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- An estimated $108 billion in student loans will be forgiven in the next two decades as a growing number of borrowers seek income-driven payment assistance programs, the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday.

The GAO, in a report to Congress that analyzed the cost of income-driven repayment plans, found some $29 billion more in student loans will be discharged due to borrower death or disability. Overall, the sum is double the amount estimated by the U.S. Department of Education, the report found.

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The GAO criticized the department for underestimating the cost of the repayment plans and significant accounting flaws that altered projected revenues.

The Obama administration has promoted five repayment programs, known as income-driven repayment plans, to slow the tide of student loan defaults. About 5.3 million borrowers who hold an estimated $355 billion in student loans are participating in income-driven repayment plans that also extend repayment periods from 10 years to 25. Programs that include the public service loan forgiveness plan allow loans to be forgiven after 10 years of consistent payments.

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Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R- Wyo., who ordered the GAO study, criticized the Obama administration's use of executive authority over student loan repayment programs.

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"This extensive investigation by an independent government watchdog found that the Department of Education relied on flawed data and methods to estimate program costs," he said. "This administration has been manipulating the terms of the student loan program without the consent of Congress, while shirking its statutory duty to carefully assess the cost impact of those changes."

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