President Obama's announcement in Denver on Wednesday of a plan to offer relief to Americans struggling with student loan debt generated significant coverage today, much of which was positive in nature, highlighting the impact of heavy student debt on both the economy and on borrowers, but other reports took a more balanced approach by focusing on the plan's limitations or on its political motivations. ABC World News (10/26, story 3, 3:30, Sawyer) led into its broadcast by citing recent reports indicating that tuition has risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, even as "the amount of undergraduate borrowing has increased by 57%" over the past decade. ABC adds that President Obama is "fast-tracking a move by Congress to allow borrowers to adjust their monthly payments based on what they earn. Paying no more than 10% of their discretionary income." ABC describes how the move could reduce monthly payments for given individuals, notes that the plan would not impact private loans, and explores how the stagnant economy exacerbates student debtors' problems. NBC Nightly News (10/26, lead story, 2:40, Williams) broadcast its lead story on the threat to the economy posed by "staggering debt from student loans," noting that student loan debt in the US "has now hit $1 trillion." This piece focuses on the angst felt by recent graduates caught between high unemployment and heavy student debt, noting that this discontent has spilled over into the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Meanwhile, "Analysts say the heavy burden of student debt is a drag on the broader economy. Recent graduates struggling to pay off loans are less likely to take steps like getting married and buying a house."
The AP (10/27, Nakamura, Wilson) reports that in his comments announcing the plan at the University of Colorado's Denver campus, Obama told the "enthusiastic audience of students that the technological changes sweeping the global economy offer opportunity even in a difficult job market," highlighting "his political message that only through shared sacrifice, including tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, will the country be able to balance its budget and improve the economy." The AP explains that the plan, dubbed "Know Before You Owe," "would allow college graduates to cap federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of discretionary income starting in January, two years before the cap was set to take effect under federal law."