Student loan debt is playing a prominent role in the presidential election this year. Almost every one of the 20 candidates running for president has been forced to address the issue of college affordability in some way. Candidates are unveiling their plans to reform higher education and help the approximately 40 million Americans struggling with student loan debt that has ballooned to $1.2 trillion. The candidates’ plans range from debt-free college to matching students with private investors to finance their tuition.
Here is where a some of the front-runners stand on the issue:
Get students through school faster, expand access to alternative higher education programs and give colleges an incentive to drive down costs and improve quality. “I think the focus ought to be on how we reform higher education so that full time students can get a four-year degree in four years.” Jeb Bush, Republican (Former Governor of Florida)
Use government intervention to ease the student debt burden. “We need to transform how much higher education costs- and how those costs get paid.” Hillary Clinton, Democrat (Former U.S. Secretary of State)
Stop the government from profiting off student loans. “I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we [the government] have is student loans.” Donald Trump, Republican (Businessman)
Expand income-based repayment, allow private investors to partner with students to cover the cost of tuition in exchange for a chunk of their incomes. “Colleges know the federal government will continue lending students as much as they need in federally guaranteed loans.” Marco Rubio, Republican (U.S. Senator from Florida)
Unofficial: Increase in competition in the education and student loan space. “The more choice we have- whether in K-12 or in higher education – the better choices and chances young people have.” Carly Fiorina, Republican (Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard)
Allow students to refinance their loans, but also roll back government involvement in education. “For too many, college is where students discover mountains of debt- but not a lifelong career.” Mike Huckabee, Republican (Former Governor of Arkansas)
Debt-free college is “wrong,” but he wants to reform the student loan system to focus more on low-income borrowers. “If college graduates are going to reap the greater economic rewards…then it seems fair for them to support the cost of the education they’re receiving.” Chris Christie, Republican (Governor of New Jersey)
Debt-free college. “Right now there aren’t even the pathways for families going to college without a huge debt. It’s only a question of how big the mountain will be.” Martin O’Malley, Democrat (Former Governor of Maryland)
Unofficial: Require families to rely more on personal responsibility, instead of student loans to get through school. “Should we be looking at ways to reduce student debt? Yes, but not if it’s going to drive up the (national) debt.” Ben Carson, Republican (Neurosurgeon)
President Obama is also partially responsible for student debt’s prevalence on the campaign trail. His administration drew more attention to the issue than most with proposals for free community college and a publicized crackdown on for-profit colleges.
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