BY ELI KOHN, STAFF WRITER
One of the biggest current events in America is the 2020 presidential election. Of course, any presidential election is bound to be a major talking point in the year leading up to it, but the 2020 election in particular stands out because it will be the first opportunity to remove from office one of the most disliked and controversial presidents in American history.
One of the biggest issues to American students — of which there are nearly 15 million — is the student debt crisis. According to Forbes, there are a total of 44.7 million student borrowers in America who owe a total of over 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt. Now, President Trump isn’t exactly making big strides towards eliminating student debt — considering he is promoting the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, among other things.So, the question becomes: which of the Democratic nominees has the best plan to eliminate the crisis that plagues the future of America?
When Barack Obama ran in 2012, reforming the college financial system wasn’t a point of emphasis for his campaign. Seven years later, students have become increasingly outspoken on the issue, and understandably, candidates have made it a prevalent part of their platforms. Here I will address the frontrunners, and describe their respective plans for reforming America’s crippling student debt.
While Joe Biden has proposed several plans for debt forgiveness, Biden’s educational reform ideas are mostly focused on K-12. However, some of his plans for fixing the higher education system include simplifying the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, particularly for teachers, to make it easier for certain professionals to get loan forgiveness. Additionally, while he hasn’t offered many details, Biden has suggested plans to offer free community college, as well as offering debt relief for graduates making less than $25,000 a year.
Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren has a much more detailed forgiveness plan than most of her competitors. She wants to forgive up to $50,000 in loans for graduates with an annual income of $100,000 or less, and partial forgiveness to those who make between $100,000 and $250,000. However, she plans to offer no forgiveness to those who make more than $250,000. Warren also seeks to implement free four-year college, planning to “split the costs of tuition and fees and ensure that states maintain their current levels of funding on need-based financial aid and academic instruction.”
Senator Bernie Sanders is infamous for his radical plans for student debt reform. Parts of this plan include: canceling all 1.5 trillion dollars of student debt; a complete elimination of tuition at public colleges, universities, and trade schools; capping interest rates at 1.88 percent; and tripling funding for the federal work-study program.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg has taken a relatively unique stance compared to his competitors on the topic of student loan debt. Buttigieg plans on making college debt-free, as opposed to the seemingly prevalent pushes for tuition-free college. But what’s the difference? Basically, Buttigieg wants to make college more affordable (rather than totally free) for lower-income families, enough so that it could be paid for without taking on loans. While this is less absolute than his opponents, it is far more realistic.
Buttigieg has the best plan for reasonable, yet sweeping, reformation. He makes a big point of only extending completely free higher education to a small group of very low-income students, while making college for everyone else simply cheaper. He highlights the necessity of simplifying higher-education payments, making them easier to understand and pay, and encouraging higher-education institutions to be more transparent and accountable in financial matters. Concerning an issue with such extreme answers thrown about, Buttigieg seems to offer a practical answer, and I would prefer cheap college now over free college two terms from now.
One thing to be said is that most candidates have a rather lofty ideal of making college completely free, or at least monumentally cheaper. I’m pushing my word count, so I won’t go into their plans (those that exist, anyways) for actually implementing these ideas. For that, you’ll have to watch the debates. So, who is the champion of us poor, poor, students? And will our next president actually do anything? We’ll find out soon enough.