Student loan debt relief could help thousands in metro

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Lawmakers plan to offer borrowers buried under student loan debt two new avenues for relief in the coming months, and a report released by the White House Tuesday timed to those efforts show hundreds of thousands of Missouri and Kansas students could benefit.

On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order that would peg some borrowers’ repayment rates to their income, protecting students whose jobs after college don’t match their debt levels. The White House report said this change would benefit 47,144 borrowers in Kansas and more than 110,000 in Missouri.

Speaking at a town hall event organized by social media giant Tumblr on Tuesday, the president urged support for a senate bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), that would allow borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates. That bill could see action this week.

“It would pay for itself,” the president said of the law, paid for by closing tax loopholes for wealthy Americans. “It’s a good piece of legislation. It directly affects people in their twenties and thirties and in some case, their forties.”

One of those affected would be Toni Darnell, a single mother of four from Shawnee. She went back to college in 2010 with hopes of becoming a paralegal. But when she graduated in 2010, jobs were nowhere to be found. Now, she works the graveyard shift at a Waffle House and struggles to pay back the $18,000 she still owes the Department of Education for her loan.

“I wasn't able to find anything,” she said of her job search. “I wasn't able to get my foot in the door and I felt hopeless.”

Darnell’s debt is only the tip of the iceberg; 71 percent of those earning a bachelor’s degree now graduate with debt, the White House report said. The average for those attending a four year college is $29,400. 

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