EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 20, 2013

Students get a break on loan repayment

Program caps student loan payments at 10 percent of income

When Jillian Barrett starts classes at the University of New Hampshire this week, the freshman transfer student will have to make a lot of adjustments.

The 18-year-old Pelham woman will find herself getting used to a new campus, new classmates — and a much bigger college tuition bill.

She will be paying $14,000 to attend UNH this semester, compared to about $2,000 last semester at Middlesex Community College.

Barrett and her family now find themselves footing much more debt and will continue to do so after she graduates.

It’s because of students such as Barrett and thousands of others across the country that the federal government recently introduced Pay As You Earn, a new student loan program.

Pay As You Earn allows those eligible to cap their monthly student loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income and for remaining payments to be forgiven after 20 years, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The program is expected to benefit an estimated 1.6 million borrowers.

Previously, loan payments were limited to 15 percent of discretionary income, with remaining debt forgiven after 25 years.

Barrett said she already has a $5,500 federal Stafford loan. But she welcomes any program that would help reduce her financial burden.

“I’ll definitely take a look at it,” she said. “It sounds pretty good seeing that taxes are going up in Washington and they’re taking more out of paychecks.”

Barrett, a 2012 Pelham High School graduate, thought she had her college career carefully mapped out.

She was accepted at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, but opted for Middlesex because the two-year school was much more affordable.

But getting into Middlesex’s recreation management program was much tougher than Barrett thought, so she enrolled at UNH and plans to become a therapist.

“It was a three-year wait and they take Massachusetts students before they take New Hampshire students,” Barrett said.

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