If you have federal student debt, a new proposal headed through the Senate could mean 10 percent of your discretionary income is automatically withdrawn every month.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is aiming to simplify the way graduates pay off their federal student loans, and as a result, tackle the growing student debt problem in our country.

Right now, nearly 40 million Americans owe a collective $1.5 trillion. And, experts say that number is expected to grow to $2 trillion by 2022 if we continue down the same path.

Related: How to manage student loan debt without making it worse

Right now, there are a handful of ways to pay off education debt. The new proposal would slash the options to just two:

  1. Graduates would be structured into automatic repayment plans based on their income. Up to 10 percent of their earnings would be automatically taken.
  2. Graduates would set up a 10-year payment plan, similar to a mortgage.

With either option, the payment would be automatically deducted from your paycheck.

The idea is to make it easier to pay off student debt and less likely to default on student loans.

As the proposal currently stands, if a graduate stops earning income for a period of time, they would not have to make payments. And it would not negatively impact their credit.

Related: Student loan stories: 3 people, 3 ways of getting control of college debt

How do student loan payments work today?

Right now, there are several different ways to pay off federal student loans. For example, you can simply pay them down, set up an income contingent payment plan, or you can seek forgiveness after a certain period.

The current options give agency to the graduates, while Senator Alexander’s plan has been criticized by consumer advocates as a “mandatory wage garnishment" -- which is when money is automatically taken from a paycheck.

Right now, graduates still have to push the button when it comes to monthly loan payments. However, if those graduates have a record of prolonged default, after a certain period of time, they run the risk of wage garnishment, up to 15 percent.

Previous: Paying off student loan? Repayment options you should consider

According to research group Brookings Institute, 40 percent of graduates with students loans will default on their loans at least once by 2023.

Senator Alexander hopes to introduce his proposal as legislation to the full Senate this summer. And if all goes according to plan, it could be law by the end of 2019.

There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, like what happens if you can't pay one month because of unforeseen emergency expenses. And the proposal will likely see changes as more senators get involved.

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