UPDATE 1-Obama moves to ease student loan burdens, urges Congress to act

Mon Jun 9, 2014 4:07pm EDT

(Adds link to BREAKINGVIEWS column)

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order making it easier for up to 5 million people to pay off college tuition debt, and scolded congressional Republicans for opposing legislation that would lower student-loan borrowing costs.

Obama signed an executive order allowing more people to limit repayments of federal student loans to 10 percent of their monthly incomes. The action will not take effect until December 2015.

The administration will also try to lower student costs by renegotiating government contracts with companies like Sallie Mae that service student loans, he said.

The president said Congress should also take steps to ease debt burdens on students, 71 percent of whom earn bachelor's degrees with debt, which averages $29,400.

Senate Democrats have proposed legislation that would allow millions of Americans to refinance both federal and private undergraduate student loans at lower interest rates.

The bill is unlikely to overcome the opposition of Republicans, who say the measure would come at too high a cost for the government. Obama said Republicans were not doing enough to support students, arguing that it should be possible for graduates to get a lower interest rate in the same way homeowners are able to.

"If you're a Big Oil company, they'll go to bat for you," he said. "If you're a student, good luck."

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by David Gregorio)

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