by: Tenikka Smith Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - President Barack Obama is taking a controversial step to help people drowning in student loan debt.
Americans face more than $1 trillion in student loan debt.
The president announced Monday an order to expand a federal program that includes putting a cap on loan payments and offers loan forgiveness.
When Channel 9 asked students at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte about student loan debt, the anxiety was clear.
"I try not to think about it, but eventually I know it's going to be a concern," sophomore Samantha Westfall said.
"I think a lot of stress coming from my classmates and colleagues is ‘I have this obligation but I can't meet that obligation,’" senior Chris Rivers said.
The Obama administration said the average college graduate has around $30,000 in debt.
The president is now expanding a federal loan program called "Pay as You Earn."
The plan caps monthly loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower's income.
The program would also be expanded to people who took out loans before October 2007 or haven't taken a new loan since October 2011.
After 20 years of repayment, the loan would be forgiven and taxpayers would have to make up the rest.
Some critics call the move a political stunt and said it creates another burden for taxpayers, but Westfall disagrees.
"They pay for health care and everything else. People’s education should definitely be at the top of the list," she said.
Rivers believes it will boost the economy by helping borrower's better manage their debt and maintain good credit so they can purchase homes, cars and other items that are out of reach for many graduates right now.
"We should put incentives in place for people to say, 'Hey, I should go to school. I should pay off my debt,' and there is a social and economic profit to society," said Rivers.
The Senate will debate the plan next week. It would take effect December 2015.
Statistics show 59 percent of graduates in North Carolina and 55 percent in South Carolina have student loan debt.
For more information about the Obama administration's position on student loan debt click here.
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