By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK (Reuters) - More U.S. graduates are likely to work with aid groups and charities after an overhaul of the country's student loan program lessens their debt repayment burden, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said.
With U.S. unemployment at 9.7 percent as the country emerges from the worst recession since World War Two, Clinton said graduates could find work with aid groups at home and abroad which would improve their career prospects.
Clinton will meet with more than 1,300 students in Miami for a three-day philanthropic summit, starting on Friday, where pledges of action will be made on education, health, economic empowerment, human rights and peace, environment and energy.
"You get the experience of a lifetime and it's worth giving up a little income to do it," he told Reuters in an interview for the third Clinton Global Initiative University. "It won't hurt their long-term career prospects; it will enhance them."
"There are jobs available. They don't pay much but they are richly rewarding and the young people could do them full time for a few years and then for the rest of their lives give what they could in terms of money and time," he said.
Clinton said that he hoped arrangements could be made for students who already have substantial debt to be able to take humanitarian jobs without risking defaulting on their loans.
Then as soon as the overhaul of the student loan system was implemented "that will never be a problem again and I think that may lead to even more young people going into this kind of work right after they get out of college."
President Barack Obama recently signed into law changes to cut commercial banks out of student loans and cap graduates' annual student loan repayments at 10 percent of income.
Clinton's philanthropic summit for students grew out of his annual Clinton Global Initiative, which has brought together business leaders, humanitarians and celebrities in New York for the past five years to address global challenges.
He created the initiative after growing frustrated while president from 1993 to 2001 at attending conferences that were more talk than action.
"Being a good citizen in the 21st century will require people to involve themselves in NGO (nongovernmental organization) work to try to solve the problems that are left when the private sector produces what it can and the government provides what it can, there are always gaps," Clinton said.
About 1,650 students were accepted to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University after making or partnering on 950 new commitments for 2010.
Separately universities and national youth organizations have this year made 45 commitments for the summit valued at more than $42 million in education, health, human rights and peace, economic empowerment and environment and energy.
"It ought to be a part of every young person's education," said Clinton. "I also want them to believe that they can do things that will make a real difference in other people's lives even if they don't have a lot of money."
(Editing by Mark Egan and Cynthia Osterman)