At a rally in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday, Donald Trump laid out his most detailed plan yet on how he will deal with the student loan debt crisis. The total student loan debt has topped $1.3 trillion and is the second largest source of debt in the United States after home mortgages.
During a speech given to high school and college students, Trump proposed a single payment plan which will be capped at 12.5% of the borrower’s income. Trump also indicated that any outstanding debt would be forgiven after 15 years of repayments. This is similar to the current Income-Driven Repayment plans offered by the Federal government, but it is a modified version that appears more aggressive in terms of repayment.
“We would cap repayment for an affordable portion of the borrower’s income, 12.5 percent, we’d cap it. That gives you a lot to play with and a lot to do,” Trump said on Thursday. “And if borrowers work hard and make their full payments for 15 years, we’ll let them get on with their lives. They just go ahead and they get on with their lives.”
Trump pointed out that government employees currently have a similar plan available to them and that every American deserves that same opportunity to get out of debt and begin saving for their family.
Trump’s plan is more generous than any existing income-based repayment plan. Currently, the earliest you can have debt forgiven under an income-based repayment plan is 20 years. Trump did not give any details on how much his plan would cost but said he would pay for it by lowering federal spending.
While providing forgiveness earlier, the plan demands more income each month, so it can be seen as a compromise by some. On top of that, it is a far cry away from the rumored transition to a fully private student lending industry.
“They are way off on their numbers,” said Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “If you were going to give loan forgiveness in 15 years, you’re going to forgive a lot more debt than you’re going to make up for in the form of the higher payments they’re proposing, by a lot. I don’t even need to run the numbers. It’s so obvious.”
Trump also talked about the high cost of college tuition, which he blamed on large college administrations. He claimed that if elected, he would reduce regulations which would lead to smaller school administrations and cheaper tuition rates. Trump also revisited his idea of incentivizing colleges to keep their costs low by threatening to remove their tax-exempt status on large endowments.
"If colleges refuse to take this responsibility seriously, they will be held accountable, including by reconsidering whether those with huge endowments deserve to keep those endowments tax exempt. We have a lot of power over the colleges. And they're not doing the job of cost cutting." His plan will also withhold federal funds to colleges that don’t lower tuition.
Hillary Clinton has endorsed income-based repayment plans and has said that if elected she would simplify the current repayment plans. The backbone of her education plan is to make college tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000. Another stipulation from her involves implementing a federal program for federal refinancing. Refinancing student loans is currently only available with private lenders and banks.
As Trump unveiled his plan to deal with college debt, his campaign continues to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct, allegations that he continues to deny. His support from some fellow Republicans continues to decline but his newest proposal could offer a bridge to millennial voters who are on the fence.