Federal Direct Student Loan Program

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Student loans in the U.S.
Regulatory framework
Higher Education Act of 1965
U.S. Dept. of Education · FAFSA
Cost of attendance · Expected Family Contribution
Distribution channels
Federal Direct Student Loan Program
Federal Family Education Loan Program
Loan products
Perkins · Stafford
PLUS · Consolidation Loans
Private student loans

The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program (also called FDLP, FDSLP, and Direct Loan Program) provides "low-interest loans for students and parents to help pay for the cost of a student's education after high school. The lender is the U.S. Department of Education ... rather than a bank or other financial institution." [1]

Following the passage of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, the Federal Direct Loan Program is the sole government-backed loan program in the United States. Guaranteed loans—loans originated and funded by private lenders but guaranteed by the government—were eliminated because of a perception that they benefited private student loan companies at the expense of taxpayers, but did not help reduce costs for students.[2]

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education transferred a large number of loans to the private conglomerate: Nelnet. Nelnet appears to be one of the sources of the many problems experienced in October 2011 with hosted website for a new platform for online servicing of federal student loans formerly handled by the government.[3]

Political history[edit]

Congress passed a pilot version of the Direct Loan program as part of the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act under President George H. W. Bush, Bush Signed it into law on July 23, 1992.[4] Under President Bill Clinton the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1993 set up a phase in of direct lending.[5] Many schools volunteered for the program, but the 104th Congress passed legislation to prevent the switch to 100% direct lending in 1994.[5] Funding for the Federal Direct Student Loan Program decreased from just over $7 billion in 2006 to $509 million budgeted for 2008.[6]

Under the Obama Administration's new budget, all new loan originations will be under the Direct Loan program by July 2010, netting $6B in annual savings. The bill approving the measure passed the House of Representatives on September 17, 2009.[7] The switch to 100% Direct Lending effective July 1, 2010 was enacted by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

In comparison, other countries have also experimented with government-sponsored loan programs. New Zealand, for instance, now offers 0% interest loans to students who live in New Zealand for 183 or more consecutive days[8] (retroactive for all former students who had government loans), who can repay their loans based on their income after they graduate.[9] This program was a Labour Party promise in the 2005 general election.[citation needed]

Current Program Size[edit]

The Federal Student Aid (FSA) loan portfolio balances were $896 billion at the end of 2012.[10] The FSA managed $473 billion under the Federal Direct Student Loan Program at the end of 2012.[11] New loans originated under the program during 2012 totaled $106.7 billion.[12] Loan portfolio balances managed by the FSA for the Federal Family Education Loan Program are steady and slowly shrinking as new loans offered to students by the U.S. Department of Education originate under the FDSL program..[13] Most of the growth in FDSL loan portfolio balances can be attributed to new loan originations, while being the sole government program for student loans. Another contributor to the rapid escalation in loan balances is due to the cost of higher education increasing rapidly, faster than inflation. Students are spending and borrowing more to finance their higher-priced, higher education.[14]

Possible Problems in the Future[edit]

Some believe that the growth of student loan debt is reaching problematic levels. Economists point to a drag on the economy as a whole because of high levels of student debt.[15] One way that has been suggested to help students with loan repayment is to lower interest on balances. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal urged,"We must reduce the student loan interest rate back to 3.4 percent immediately, and then even lower, and develop ways for past students to reduce and erase the $1 trillion in existing debt. The failure of Congress to act now threatens our all too slow and fragile economic recovery and job creation."[16] Another way to deal with debt to income levels is to require higher learning accountability. "Only recently have government regulators demanded accountability for the educational benefits universities produce and the efficiency with which they produce them: What does college cost? How many students are admitted? How many graduate? How long does it take them to graduate? How many get good jobs? At the same time, accrediting bodies have changed their measurement emphasis from inputs and activities to outcomes...Students want not just high-paying jobs, but an acceptable ratio of starting salary to student debt. Governments likewise care not just about the number of graduates but the total cost of producing each graduate.” [17] These questions warrant consideration in the future conversations about the Federal Student Loan Program.


  1. ^ "Direct Loan Page for Students.". Student Aid on the Web. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Michael Simkovic, Risk-Based Student Loans (2013)
  3. ^ <ed.gov blog>, "ED Working to Resolve Problems with Direct Loan Website" (Oct. 2011).
  4. ^ "Bill Text Version of S.1150 102nd Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Federal Education Budget Project
  6. ^ Department of Education. Budget of the United States Government: Fiscal Year 2008. http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy08/sheets/28_6.xls
  7. ^ Lewin, Tamar (2009-09-18). "House Passes Bill to Expand College Aid". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  8. ^ Inland Revenue. "Interest-free student loans - eligibility and what you need to do (About student loans)."
  9. ^ Inland Revenue. "Student loan repayment threshold (Making repayments)."
  10. ^ "FSA Annual Report 2012" (PDF). Washington,DC. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Department of Education Student Loans Overview Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Proposal" (PDF). Washington,DC. Retrieved October 30, 2013. 
  12. ^ "FSA Annual Report 2012" (PDF). Washington,DC. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  13. ^ "FSA Annual Report 2012" (PDF). Washington,DC. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Condition of Education Annual Report 2008". Washington,DC. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  15. ^ Kadlec, D (October 18, 2013). "Student Loans Are Becoming a Drag on the US Economy". Time. Retrieved November 23, 2013. 
  16. ^ Blumenthal, Richard (2013). "Blumenthal statement on federal student loan debt eclipsing $1 trillion". States News Service. 
  17. ^ Christensen, Clayton M. (2011). The innovative university: Changing the DNA of higher education from the inside out. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

External links[edit]