Graduating with Student Debt and Dealing with Mortgage Interest

It’s an election year: Senate Democrats want to help college graduates, surely Republicans want to, too? A new bill would allow student borrowers to refinance their federally subsidized loans at a rate of 3.86 percent—the current rate for new loans approved by Congress last year. The bill would be financed by the “Buffet Rule,” which would ensure that the wealthy pay a minimum amount of tax. It’s generally a dead-on-arrival idea with Republicans. The Hill reports that New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer offered to deal: “We’re open. We welcome suggestions on how [Republicans] would pay for it.”

Help would be good: Student loans are dragging down the economy. Low loan rates and even student loan interest deductions are not enough to lighten the weight of student debt. A new report from the Brookings Institution and TPC by Bill Gale, Benjamin Harris, Bryant Renaud, and Katherine Rodihan, shows that between 1989 and 2010, the share of households with  student loans jumped from 9 to 19 percent, and inflation-adjusted median student debt rose by more than 50 percent. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center reports that [corrected] the median student debtor has total loans equal to about two years’ worth of household income — loans that include mortgage, vehicle, and credit card debt, on top of student debt. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that student debtors are not buying houses.

If college grads did buy, maybe they’d prefer a tax credit to a mortgage interest deduction. A new report by Amanda Eng updates TPC analysis of ways to replace the mortgage interest deduction with credits designed to improve incentives for homeownership. They include: 1) a nonrefundable credit of up to 15% of eligible mortgage interest, 2) a nonrefundable credit of up to 20% of eligible mortgage interest, 3) a refundable credit of a fixed percentage of property taxes paid, and 4) a flat-amount refundable credit for all homeowners.

And on the Hill this morning: The Senate Banking Committee holds an executive session to consider a bill that would provide secondary market reform: The Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2013.

Interested in subscribing to The Daily Deduction, the Tax Policy Center summary of the day’s tax news? Sign-up here for free access. If you’d like to tell us about a new research paper or have any comments about our new feature, write us at dailydeduction@taxpolicycenter.org.