With student debt at a high of around $1 trillion, the issue is pertinent enough for our 2016 presidential candidates to have a take on how to resolve it, or at least have a plan in place to tackle the problem. Democratic Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has not shied away from the issue and pledged to address it.
During the primaries, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders found the debt problem large enough that he made it a focus of his platform. When it comes to Clinton, she supports tuition-free college for students who can’t afford it. The criteria are students whose families make less than $125,000 a year and are open to attending in-state public schools.
Her plan will enable the federal government to give grants to states that “commit to ensuring” debt-free education for qualified students. In addition, it would start with families making less than $85,000 a year. Furthermore, it will eventually be expanded to include families who make more. In 2014, the median family income in the United States was under $55,000.
If her plan gets to the $125,000 ceiling, 80% of American families may qualify. Clinton also wants to make community college free for everyone. This stands in line with President Obama’s proposal to have the federal government pay for 75% of the costs, and the states will cover the rest. Although, Clinton’s plan does not cover room and board or books and supplies.
Another option, Clinton would like to provide, is the ability for borrowers to refinance their federal college loans. Right now, students must turn to private banks in order to consolidate student loans at a lower rate. This means that students will have to give up forgiveness programs or income-driven options.
Clinton wants borrowers to have the ability to refinance at current interest rates. Her campaign estimates this would save 25 million borrowers around $2,000, over the cost of the life of a loan. There’s still more to her plan, as she would like to make income-based repayment programs more accessible to the average borrower. Clinton wants to consolidate the four income-based repayment plans for federal loans into one payment plan, while making enrollment automatic.
According to Forbes, the average student loan payment in 2016 is around $350 per month. This can be a huge cost for recent graduates making entry-level salaries. Clinton wants to cap the monthly payments to 10% of a borrower’s total income. Then, for those with a history of timely and consistent payments, Clinton wants to offer a debt forgiveness plan after 20 years.
If a borrower is working in public service, Clinton vows to forgive debt after 10 years. This would include AmeriCorps teachers or teachers in subjects facing instructor shortages.