Bush calls for complete revamp of the financial aid system

Carson also sets education priorities

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush unveiled an education program this week—including a complete overall of how the federal government provides financial aid to college students.

Bush, who focused heavily on education as governor of Florida, has been promising such a plan for months, Michael Stratford reports for Inside Higher Ed. On Monday, Bush revealed the key components of his plan.

Colleges would help students who can't repay

Under Bush's proposal, all high school graduates would receive a $50,000 line of credit from the federal government to use for higher education or career training. Borrowers would not have to use all $50,000 and would repay only the amount that they use. Via federal income taxes, borrowers would pay 1% of their income for each $10,000 they ended up borrowing.

Comparing proposals for free college

Low-income students would continue receiving Pell grants on top of the line of credit, Bush says, although he also called for reforms to the grants, such as informing prospective students that they are eligible for Pell much faster.

In addition, Bush proposed helping borrowers with existing student loan debt transition to the new system or another of the income-based repayment plans created by the Obama administration.

"This new financial aid system would eliminate the confusing financial aid application process and remove the menace of accumulating interest, default, damaged credit and collections agencies," according to an outline of the plan released by Bush's campaign.

Schools would have skin in the game

Bush also says colleges and universities should be required to repay a share of federal loans that their former students are unable to pay. "This will incentivize [schools] to reduce costs and ensure that students graduate with the skills needed to succeed," he argued in a blog post.

Bush also wants to create a database to track student outcomes such as earnings and unemployment.

Rubio: Higher ed is a 'cartel,' needs a dramatic overhaul

Writing National Review, Andrew Kelly and Jason Delisle, who say they informally advised Bush on the plan, say his proposal is more "targeted" than Democrats' free college proposals. "Scarce taxpayer dollars should be targeted to those who need them most, not spread across all students in a universal entitlement," they argue.

Carson shares goals for higher ed

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson also jumped into the higher ed conversation this week. On his website, Carson called for a "simpler, more streamlined and transparent" financial aid process and pledged to "take the federal bureaucracy out of education and concentrate on empowering the American people" (Hefling, Politico, 1/18; Stratford, Inside Higher Ed, 1/20; Kelly/Delisle, National Review, 1/18; Ben Carson website, accessed 1/21).

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