Obama Signs Student Loan Overhaul Legislation

The reconciliation act invests more than $40 billion in Pell Grants to ensure that all eligible students receive an award and that these awards are increased in future years to help keep pace with the rising cost of college, White House officials say. These investments, coupled with the funding provided in the Recovery Act and the president's first two budgets, will more than double the total amount of funding available for Pell Grants since Obama took office. By the 2020-2021 academic school year, more than 820,000 additional Pell Grant awards are expected to be made as a result of this new law.

The law covers the expected funding shortfall and much of the recent growth in Pell Grant costs, putting the program on more secure footing for years to come, according to officials.

Historically black colleges and universities and so-called Minority Serving-Institutions (MSIs) account for nearly one-third of all degree-granting institutions and enroll nearly 60 percent of the nation's 4.7 million minority undergraduates. The bill provides $2.55 billion in mandatory funding to these institutions.

As part of the expanded income-based repayment plan, new borrowers who assume loans after July 1, 2014, will be able to cap their student loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income and, if they keep up with their payments over time, will have the balance forgiven after 20 years. Public service workers such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service will see any remaining debt forgiven after just 10 years.

Officials estimate that the legislation would save $61 billion over 10 years. Universities that participate in federal lending have just a few months, until July 1, to switch their financial aid systems to the new "direct lending" program.

Health Care Hurdles

The president acknowledged today that the health insurance bill won't fix every problem "in one fell swoop," but it "represents some of the toughest insurance reforms in history."

The president highlighted four areas where immediate progress can be made -- increasing the size of tax credits to help middle-class families and small businesses pay for their health insurance, offering $250 to older Americans who fall in the Medicare coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" to help them pay for prescriptions, making new investments into community health centers, and strengthening efforts to combat waste and fraud in the system.

While health care overhaul may now be law, the White House is still hoping to get the message out and convey to Americans how it will impact their lives positively.

Americans are divided about the health care law and what it will mean for them. In a USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday, 50 percent said they thought the new law will increase their costs, while the same percentage called the passage of the bill "a bad thing."

In an interview with NBC News today, Obama called the health care package passed into law a "critical first step" but said that more changes need to be implemented to address costs down the line.

"I think it is a critical first step in making a health care system that works for all Americans. It's not going to be the only thing. We're still going to have adjustments that have to be made to further reduce costs," he told NBC's Matt Lauer.

Asked about not having one Republican vote for the bill, the president said that he believes "the Republican party made a calculated decision, a political decision, that they would not support whatever we did."

The president said that any objective observer would conclude that the bill is a "middle of the road, centrist approach."

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