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Student debt and the presidential race, part 2
With the first vote in the presidential caucuses and primaries less than a year away, contenders are starting to stake out policy positions, including their views on student debt and college affordability.
At this early stage, more of the focus has been on whether college should be subsidized or even free, rather than thinking through relief for those who owe student debt. Specifically, many of the better-known contenders are weighing in on whether a four-year college education should be free for those who can’t afford it.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, returning for another run at the presidency, is a major proponent of “college for all,” introducing a bill of the same name in 2017 that would also make two-year programs free for all students, regardless of income.
As we reported last month, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris has expressed interest in the idea, and so have many other Democratic candidates, including Julián Castro, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. In fact, several of the senators running have co-sponsored legislation to provide free higher education to low-income students. But not everyone thinks it could work.
Notably, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has come out against free four-year college — she did say that if she “were a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would” — although she hasn’t ruled out subsidized community college. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hasn’t announced whether he will be running, also opposes the idea, describing it as “a nice thing to do, but unfortunately professors want to get paid.”
Klobuchar and Bloomberg’s skepticism over college for all is matched by possible independent candidate and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz and President Donald Trump, both of whom have criticized the plan.
When it comes to aid for those already buried under college debt, there’s been less discussion among the 2020 hopefuls. But here, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand are notable exceptions.
Warren is a long-standing proponent of moves to help Americans repay their student loans. She sponsored a bill in 2017, still languishing in Congress, that would allow the federal government to refinance federal student loans at the same low rates now offered to new college loan borrowers.
Gillibrand, too, has come out in favor of creating a way to refinance college loans through the government. (Currently, student loan refinancing can only be done via a private lender.) In a tweet earlier this week, the New York senator said she would begin her presidency by allowing the refinancing of all student loans at 4%, which is below even the rates on new federal loans.
“The federal government shouldn’t be making money off the backs of our students, period,” Gillibrand wrote.
Likewise, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — also running for president — has indicated interest in the issue, though he hasn’t yet put out a specific platform on student debt. Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran, would be one of the only millennials in the race, and he has spoken repeatedly of seeking “intergenerational justice.”
How it affects YOU: Judging from past presidential contests, it’s possible that many candidates’ views on the big issues are still “evolving,” so there’s no time like the present to let their campaigns know what you think. Just because you don’t live in Iowa or New Hampshire doesn’t mean you can’t help nudge them in the direction you want.
Try writing to the campaigns of Sens. Warren, Booker, Sanders, Harris, Gillibrand and Klobuchar, Rep. Gabbard, Mayor Buttigieg and Castro, as well as some of the less-covered would-be presidents. It’s still early enough in the game to influence the debate.
Also in the news …
- A group of Congressional Democrats say they’ve found evidence that the Trump administration tried to shield Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from an inspector general’s investigation, the Associated Press, Politico and others reported Tuesday. You can read the lawmakers’ letter to DeVos here.
- Major student loan servicer Navient rejected a $3.2 billion bid Monday from a pair of investment funds. According to Reuters, the offer valued Navient at 6.6% above the student loan company’s share price the previous trading day.
- Work on the complete overhaul of the federal student loan servicing system rolls on. If you’re interested in some of the details, insideARM has a report out on all the developments big and small since mid-January.
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