Every Presidential Election is different and along with those differences comes different debate topics. One of the debate topics for the 2020 Presidential Election is one every college student complains about: Student Debt.
As of recently the student debt crisis has reached a new peak with sites like Forbes reporting that with over 44 million student borrowers there is a collective debt amount of $1.5 trillion which is the highest it’s ever been. Let's take a look at where each of the current presidential candidates stand:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent – Vermont)
A previous candidate from the 2016 election is back again with the same stance on student debt. Sanders has been proposing making public college tuition-free for students in partnership with the federal government. This partnership between the states and the government would entail a two-thirds cover by the federal government and the rest covered by the state. In 2017, Sanders introduced the College for All Act, which would make community colleges tuition-free for students from families earning an annual household income of $125,000 or less.
His current campaign plans have not formally been made clear but there is a strong indication that he will push forth this same agenda.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Democrat – Massachusetts)
One of the current Senators of Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, has been an advocate for students and families and their challenges affording college and repayment of student loans. She has been aggressive when being critical of the student-loan and for-profit industries as well as the Department of Education’s oversight in those areas. Warren has written letters and commissioned investigations into the companies and the agency’s practices.
Warren has introduced bills that were aimed at curbing student debt. She has introduced a bill as early as 2014 that would allow federal student loan borrowers to refinance their loan debt at a lower interest rate.
Although Warren has been somewhat silent on her campaign run so far, she has mentioned that proceeds from her proposed tax on the wealthiest Americans will possibly go toward student-loan relief. She has also backed Sanders’ 2017 proposed bill and co-sponsors a bill by Senator Brian Schatz (Democrat – Hawaii), which would use federal government money to motivate states to help students attend college with zero debt. Said bill will include the cost of room, board, books and supplies.
With the history that Warren has, there is no doubt that she will not continue to push for government assistance with college affordability, student-debt relief, and the oversight of student-loan and for-profit college industries.
Sen. Kamala Harris (Democrat – California)
Harris has been clear on her stance and is a major supporter for college financing system reform. Along with Sen. Warren, she is a co-sponsor for Sen. Schatz’s debt-free college bill and is backing Sen. Sanders’ bill.
Harris has an aggressive stance against for-profit colleges. As California’s Attorney General, she uncovered the fraud at one of the largest for-profit college chains, the Corinthian Colleges, which are now permanently closed. She won more than $1 billion in judgement against the school.
If elected, she plans to continue her stance and become more aggressive in actions against for-profit colleges.
Sen. Cory Booker (Democrat – New Jersey)
Senator Booker of New Jersey has not given much insight into what his plans could be to curb student debt if he was to win the presidency, but he was a co-sponsor on Sen. Schatz’s debt-free college bill. This indicates that he would also be in support of a re-shaping of the college affordability system.
In 2017, Booker introduced a bill that would provide an account with $1,000 to every baby born in the U.S. (called “baby bonds"). The “baby bonds" accounts would be eligible for a $2,000 deposit every year depending on family income. The accounts would be managed by the Treasury Department where they would also earn a 3% interest and unavailable to the child until the age of 18. At 18, the child would have the option to tap the money to pay for college or buy a home.
This would increase the probability of a child attending college because there is money that was put away for them. The plan would be called the American Opportunity Accounts Act.
Sen Amy Klobuchar (Democrat – Minnesota)
Klobuchar was the first mainstream Democrat candidate to push back against the idea of debt-free or tuition-free four-year college. Her explanation is that given the current status of the national debt, she does not believe the country can afford a four-year free college. Klobuchar would be in favor of policies to make the burden of affording college easier or refinancing the interest on student loans.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat – Hawaii)
Gabbard has always been a supporter of the free college ideal and is a co-sponsor of the House of Representatives version of Sanders’ College for All Act. She has also been in favor of, and introduced legislation, GI Bill benefits expanding so veterans can use it to pay for their college education.
Julian Castro (Obama-era Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former Mayor of San Antonio, TX)
Castro announced during his presidency announcement that one of his main priorities are to make the first two years of college a certificate or an apprenticeship program in order to give students necessary skills while making it easier for them to not drown in debt.
While at a campaign event at St. Anselm College, Castro went into further detail saying that “we need to work toward a tuition-free system of public university, college, apprenticeship and certificate programs in this country".
John Delaney (Democrat – former House Rep for Maryland’s 6th congressional district)
Delaney, a candidate who announced his run for presidency in July 2017, is not in favor of tuition-free college. He is a part of the more conservative side to the Democratic party and is more concerned with decreasing the country’s deficit then student loan debt.
Donald Trump (Republican – 45th President up for re-election)
In President Trump’s recent State of the Union address, there were no mentions of student loan debt but this does not mean that he will not weigh in his ideas later on in his campaign.
Here are the stances of the current 2020 Presidential Candidates who have officially declared their run. Pay close attention to this election because it will definitely be one to watch!