Advocate says Trump administration's new proposal would do 'absolutely nothing' to alleviate student debt

Student debt reform advocate Cody Hounanian criticized the Trump administration’s latest proposal to limit federal loan borrowing programs, saying the plan would do “absolutely nothing” for millions of Americans already in debt and could make the problem worse.

“We know from experience from talking to borrowers, having student debt ourselves, that this issue will actually make the problem worse,” Hounanian, a program director at non-profit Student Debt Crisis, told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on Tuesday.

“For those of us who have student debt, the plan does absolutely nothing to address the 45 million of us that have $1.5 trillion dollars in student debt,” he continued.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE on Monday unveiled a new set of higher education priorities, including asking Congress to put a limit on loans for graduate students and parents of undergraduates. 

The administration also wants to consolidate income-driven repayment options into one simple plan.

White House senior advisor Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump family members will join state visit to UK The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump blows up meeting after Pelosi 'cover up' remarks Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul MORE touted the proposal as a way to “modernize” the higher education system, saying the plan would help make higher education more “affordable, flexible and more outcome orientated” for all Americans.

Hounanian, however, said that while the plan is "being sold as well-intentioned," it would take away much-needed financial opportunities and replace them with “predatory student loans.”

“The cap on student loans will lead to families to have to source those dollars somewhere else,” he told Hill.TV. “They’re going to big banks, predatory loans with high interest rates and few consumer protections.”

Hounanian added that a number of fixes could be done today to help student loan borrowers. But he said the Trump administration has turned away from those solutions, citing the borrower defense rule as an example.

“A good example is the borrower defense rule that just plainly offered debt relief to people who were completed scammed by fraudulent education companies and this administration completely hamstrung the program until borrowers took them to court,” he said.

Hounanian added that the Trump administration first needs to address the “low-hanging fruit” such as consumer protections that would help alleviate the debt load for everyday Americans.

“We’d like to see this administration, of course, start with the low-hanging fruit — consumer protections — that help everyday Americans afford their debt, but instead they're rolling back these programs,” he said.

A growing number of Democratic presidential candidates are pushing the idea of debt-free college. 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers Overnight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan MORE (D-Mass.), for example, has supported efforts aimed at lowering college costs. She also backed a bill put forth by Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOvernight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change Overnight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds MORE (D-Hawaii) that would have let students attend public colleges without having to take out any loans to pay for tuition, books and other college expenses.

—Tess Bonn