Dear Colleague Letter GEN 14-14 provides information on the impact of the Windsor decision on the eligibility of a stepparent to receive a Direct PLUS Loan and on the treatment of same-sex married borrowers under the income-driven repayment plans. The letter does not impose any requirements beyond those set forth in applicable law and regulations.
Stepparent Eligibility for a Direct PLUS Loan
Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program, a dependent undergraduate student’s biological or adoptive parent and, in most cases, the spouse of the student’s biological or adoptive parent (a stepparent) may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan to help pay for the cost of the student’s postsecondary education. Consistent with the Windsor decision, a stepparent, who meets the definition of “parent” in 34 CFR 668.2, and who is of the same sex as the dependent student’s biological or adoptive parent, may apply for a Direct PLUS Loan if the stepparent and parent were legally married in any domestic or foreign jurisdiction that recognizes the relationship as a valid marriage, regardless of where the couple resides. In addition, such a stepparent will have to meet the eligibility requirements for a parent to receive a Direct PLUS Loan as stated in 34 CFR 685.200(c).
As a reminder, a Direct PLUS Loan for any parent, including a stepparent, can only be originated while the dependent student is currently enrolled, on at least a half-time basis, for the period of enrollment for which the loan is intended.
Income-Driven Repayment Plans
The Direct Loan Program and the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program offer borrowers the option of repaying their eligible loans under repayment plans that base the required monthly payment amount on the borrower’s income and family size. These “income-driven” repayment plans include the Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan), the Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (Pay As You Earn Plan), and the Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan). The IBR Plan is available to borrowers in both the Direct Loan and FFEL programs. The Pay As You Earn Plan and the ICR Plan are available only to borrowers in the Direct Loan Program.
Under certain circumstances the income and/or Federal student loan debt of a borrower’s spouse is taken into account when determining the borrower’s eligibility for an income-driven repayment plan and, if eligible, the required monthly payment amount. A borrower’s spouse is counted when determining the borrower’s family size.
Consistent with the Windsor decision, and for all income-driven repayment plan purposes, the term “spouse” includes a same-sex spouse if the borrower and spouse were legally married in any domestic or foreign jurisdiction that recognizes the relationship as a valid marriage, regardless of where the couple resides. All FFEL Program participants are expected to comply with this guidance, including those that are agencies within a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriages.
More information at: http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1414.html
For additional guidance on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act and its implications for the Title IV SFA programs follow this link: http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1413.pdf