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Jan 27, 2014 01:30 PM EST

Federal Student Loans Could See Significant 3 Changes in 2014

President Barack Obama
(Photo : Reuters) President Barack Obama talks about the rising cost of student loans at the University of Iowa.

Student loans were a hot topic in 2013 and that does not figure to change in 2014, as U.S. News and World Report says three major changes can be expected in the coming year.

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In 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on a bill that will tie student loan interest rates to the market. While it kept the rates low for the current academic year, they are expected to rise as the economy continues to recover.

However, there is a cap for how high the rates can climb for undergraduate, graduate and parent students. One on hand, Democrats wanted to keep the rates low and, on the other, Republicans wanted them to fluctuate with the market. The bill states they may fluctuate, but have to remain static for an entire academic year.

The Education Department is also under pressure for allegedly allowing its biggest lender to have too long a leash. Sallie Mae is currently under investigation from three government agencies following allegations of lending fraud and other activities.

According to U.S. News and World Report, here are three potential changes for student loans in 2014.

1.     Addition of PLUS loans

Parent Direct PLUS and Graduate PLUS loans will require credit checks, denying anyone with a loan delinquent for at least 90 days or a foreclosure, bankruptcy filing, repossession or loan default within the last five years.

"It left students scrambling in the middle of their academic careers, trying to find the funds to remain in school," New America Foundation policy analyst Rachel Fishman said at a PLUS loans panel Jan. 8 in Washington, D.C. "That never should have happened."

2.     Interest rates on the rise

Now that federal student loans are tied to the market, they are widely expected to go up. However, while the economy may be recovering, a recent study says the unemployment rate for recent college grads is as tough as ever. This makes paying back student loans harder; a problem higher rates will only exaggerate.

3.     Student loan entrance and exit counseling

Several students and faculty believe exit and entrance counseling does not help much. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) recently introduced the Smarter Borrowing Act, legislation that could make such counseling more comprehensive and useful.

Edvisors.com publisher Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert, said the bill has bipartisan support and could very well be included in the Higher Education Act when it will be reauthorized at the end of 2014. Congress only has to agree to give the Higher Education Act a refresher.

"The last reauthorization was originally supposed to occur in 2002," Kantrowitz said. "They passed 13 extension bills until it was finally passed in 2008, and this Congress is at least as contentious."

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