A new bill is circulating Congress that would alleviate the pressures facing students struggling to repay college loans.
The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, introduced to the House by Representative Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.), would reduce the debt of students who have already repaid a substantial portion of their loans over the past decade.
The act, which currently has over a million signatures on the petition website signon.org, aims to stimulate the economy by increasing the amount of available income students -- otherwise theoretically debt-bound -- would have to invest and spend.
"Students who studied hard, played by the rules, and are now desperate to find work are being denied basic opportunities and are, accordingly, falling behind on payments. They are finding that their degrees, like homes at the height of the real estate bubble, were vastly mispriced assets that are now hard to finance," wrote Representative Clarke in a blog post for the HuffPost. "We must set these students free."
Not all current students are sanguine about the bill. "That may help students like me in the future," high school senior George Edwards writes of the bill in the New York Times, "but I have to make a decision now about whether I am willing to take out loans to pay for my education."
Under the bill, a 10-10 standard is used as the criteria for student loan forgiveness. If a student has made payments equal to 10 percent of his discretionary income for 10 years, remaining federal student loan debt is forgiven.
Students who have already paid 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years will immediately qualify for debt forgiveness, according to an FAQ.
Additionally, the forgiven debt would not be counted as taxable income and interest rates on federal loans would be capped at 3.4 percent.
In 2010, total outstanding student loan debt exceeded total outstanding credit card debt for the first time. By the end of this year, total outstanding student loan debt is predicted to exceed $1 trillion. As college tuition soars even in troubled economic times, students increasingly find themselves mired in debt upon graduation.
"There's finally hope on the horizon!" the petition site reads. "Support a REAL economic stimulus and jobs plan."