One of the weird things (of many) about using the reconciliation process is that it can only be used once per session. So when the Democrats passed Romneycare, they also had to deal with getting student loan reform past conservative obstruction. From The Washington Post (italics mine):
The student aid initiative, which House Democrats attached to their final amendments to the health-care bill, would overhaul the student loan industry, eliminating a $60 billion program that supports private student loans with federal subsidies and replacing it with government lending to students. The House amendments will now go to the Senate.
By ending the subsidies and effectively eliminating the middleman, the student loan bill would generate $61 billion in savings over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Most of those savings, $36 billion, would go to Pell grants, funding an era of steady and predictable increases in the massive but underfunded federal aid program for needy students. Smaller portions would go toward reducing the deficit and to various Democratic priorities, including community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and caps on loan payments.
The bill’s greatest impact would fall on the more than 6 million students who rely on Pell grants to finance their education. Pell, launched in 1973, once covered more than two-thirds of total costs at a public university. It now covers about one-third.
The student aid measure was initially framed as a boost to the Pell program. Now it is seen as its salvation. Democratic leaders say that without a massive infusion of cash, the maximum grant could be scaled back by more than half to $2,150 and at least 500,000 students could be dropped from the program.
Think of this as a public option–you can apply directly to the government for a college loan. Of course, if the federal government were to play the role of healthcare insurer….TEH SOCIALISMZ!!