Federal changes on student loans creating anxiety

Posted Oct. 30, 2011, at 6:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Graduate students will pay more for loans taken out next July, and recent graduates will lose rebates for on-time repayment under a law Congress passed this summer to keep the federal deficit in check while protecting Pell Grants for low-income students.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the changes will save the government $21.6 billion — meaning students would pay that much more or borrow less — over the next 10 years.

Another change that a key Senate committee voted to include in the 2012 federal budget would “save” an additional $6.1 billion by getting rid of a grace period subsidy for undergraduate loans.

The elimination of repayment rebates and loan subsidies for graduate students was included in the bipartisan deal reached in July known as the Budget Control Act, the law that set 10-year spending caps while raising the federal debt ceiling.

Financial aid departments at colleges and universities are now starting to notify graduate students that Stafford loans they take out next summer will no longer include a subsidy that keeps interest from accruing while they are in school.

Planes stranded on tarmac for 7 hours

NEW YORK — Passengers on JetBlue planes were stranded on the tarmac in Hartford, Conn., for more than seven hours Saturday.

A passenger on one of the plane diverted to Bradley International Airport says the crew ran out of snacks and bottled water for the last few hours of the ordeal.

“The toilets were backed up. When you flushed, nothing would happen,” said Andrew Carter, a reporter for the Sun Sentinel of Florida, who was traveling to cover the Miami Dolphins game against the New York Giants. His plane took off from Fort Lauderdale for Newark Liberty International Airport at around 9 a.m. After being diverted to Hartford, the plane sat on the tarmac from around 1:30 to 9 p.m., he said.

A JetBlue spokeswoman confirmed in an email that six of its planes, carrying a total of about 700 passengers, were diverted to Hartford as a result of a “confluence of events” including equipment failures at Newark and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

She said that equipment is needed for planes to land when visibility is low. She noted that 17 other flights with different carriers were also diverted to Bradley International.

US northern border checks scaled back

SEATTLE — The U.S. Border Patrol has quietly stopped its controversial practice of routinely searching buses, trains and airports for illegal immigrants at transportation hubs along the northern border and in the nation’s interior, preventing agents from using what long had been an effective tool for tracking down people here illegally, The Associated Press has learned.

Current and former Border Patrol agents said field offices around the country began receiving the order last month — soon after the Obama administration announced that to ease an overburdened immigration system, it would allow many undocumented people to remain in the country while it focuses on deporting those who have committed crimes.

The routine bus, train and airport checks typically involved agents milling about and questioning people who appeared suspicious and long had been criticized by immigrant rights groups. Critics said the tactic amounted to racial profiling and violated the civil liberties of travelers.

But agents said it was an effective way to catch unlawful immigrants, including smugglers and possible terrorists, who had evaded detection at the border, as well as people who had overstayed their visas.

Halting the practice has baffled the agents, especially in some stations along the northern border — from Bellingham, Wash., to Houlton, Maine — where the transportation checks have been the bulk of their everyday duties. The Border Patrol is authorized to check vehicles within 100 miles of the border.

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