"I think there needs to be a much more approachable way to go about learning how to repay the loans. Much of the information was provided in 'legalese' that made it difficult to understand," one survey respondent said.
Information is not the only issue, O'Sullivan says.
"No matter how much information you give, it's just unnecessarily complex," he says. "I just imagine students in there with a fine-tooth comb, trying to figure out which plan is right for them."
Automatic income-based repayment has backing from one key group: students.
Nearly 90 percent of student leaders – those active in campus organizations such as student government, fraternities or sororities – surveyed by Young Invincibles support the idea because it simplifies the financial aid process, according to a November 2012 report. The nonprofit group only surveyed 72 student leaders, but it's an important group to have on board as respondents echoed the opinions of their peers, O'Sullivan says.
[Learn how to save on college costs and reduce student debt.]
Settling on one repayment plan for all students may seem simple on the surface, but it isn't practical, says Pam Rambo, owner of Rambo Research and Consulting, a college admissions and financial aid advising firm.
"Government 'enhancements' to financial aid often sound good, but do not always turn out well," says Rambo, who spent eight years as the director of financial aid at Thomas Nelson Community College in Virginia.
Universal income-based repayment would add time and, in turn, interest to students' loans. It also would not take into account a student's full financial picture, she says. Students living with their parents after graduation may be able to pay more than what the plan would require because they don't have to deal with sky-high rents or hefty mortgage payments.
"Different loan repayment options were created in recognition of the fact that student circumstances are different," she says. "That was a great idea. We should keep it."
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