Dollars and Sense: #HigherEd Student Loans in the Presidential Election

Today is Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Today is #ElectionDay.

I don’t need to say what’s been said before. Americans are voting today with varied emotions.

When it comes to higher education, the Democratic and Republican candidates are unsurprisingly running on vastly different platforms.

What remains to be seen is whether either candidate will go on to induce policy reform after “EDay.” Without endorsing anyone, here’s each major party candidate’s (short-form) stance on higher education and student debt.

Donald Trump

On October 13 in Columbus Ohio, Trump addressed student debt at a private “Millennial Rally” with about 450 college-aged adults in attendance. He said: “Students should not be asked to pay more on their loans than they can afford.” He then asserted that grads should not be weighed down by student debt for a lifetime.

Trump’s plan is income-contingent. Borrowers wouldn’t pay more than 12.5 percent of their income toward their federal loans, which would be forgiven entirely after 15 years.

His other focus is to use the power of the federal government to cut “administrative bloat” (think salaries and other administrative/overhead costs) to reduce tuition increases.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s “New College Compact” addresses similar federal policies, but plans for the government to play a different role in affecting change.

Under her plan, current borrowers could refinance student loans at the current federal interest rate, and – not dissimilar to Trump’s plan – would consolidate the several income-based repayment programs and cap payments at 10 percent of income, with college debt forgiven after 20 years.

Clinton’s plan also “includes financial penalties for universities that fail to trim costs, reduce tuition and ensure students are able to get good jobs.” It also calls for students to work 10 hours per week. Jacob Leibenluft, a senior policy adviser to Clinton’s campaign told the New York Times: “…we need everybody to be part of the solution.”

Most notably, her plan would allow students from families with an income of under $125,000 a year to attend in-state, four-year public schools without paying tuition. Students at community colleges also will receive free tuition.

Looking Ahead

Rising costs and federal student debt have both lead to increased demand for political intervention. I’ll be interested to see how the #HigherEd headlines read in the coming weeks with a newly elected POTUS.

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