Green party Presidential candidate Jill Stein calls student loan debt a sign of a human rights crisis and claims that if elected she will pressure local lawmakers to cancel all student loan debt, currently numbering in the trillions. The bailout would take place over a decade and Stein claims this will help boost the economy because rather than millennials putting their money toward their debt, they can use that money to help stimulate the economy.
“We found a way to bail out Wall Street, the guys that crashed the economy with their waste, fraud, and abuse. So my point is, as responsible adults, we need to bail out a younger generation that is held hostage in this unpayable student debt. It’s terrible for them. It’s terrible for our whole society, because it’s always the younger generation that leads us forward to create the economy of the future and to lead the social changes that we urgently need right now.”
This is a plan that Tess Wise, Harvard PhD candidate, says is unlikely to be brought to fruition. The private companies that hold the loan debt would have to take on huge losses and these are companies that hold major influence across both major political parties. Wise does concede that it may be possible for a larger portion of the debt, mostly federally backed loans, to be cancelled under Stein’s plan if current tax codes were amended.
Critics of Stein’s plan argue that her campaign promise is nothing more than an attempt to woo millennial voters. They are also quick to point out that there are other ways to stimulate the economy than cancelling all student loans.
Critics also argue that cancelling student loan debt is a bad idea because it would mostly help highly educated borrowers with advanced degrees who have the means to repay their loans. The top 20 percent of borrowers owe more than a third of all student loan debt. These borrowers tend to be graduate students who have the educations and resources to repay their loans. Default rates tend to be higher for borrowers attending 2-year and for-profit schools, or for borrowers who drop out after taking on student loan debt. These borrowers often end up owing less than $5,000 in student loans, so cancelling all student loan debt would offer little relief to struggling Americans.
Stein believes that access to higher education should be a fundamental right and has also promised that if elected, she would guarantee tuition-free, public education from preschool through college. This would allow those with limited resources an opportunity to earn a high level of education.
“When we cancel student debt, the other thing that we must do is make public higher education free as a human right,” Stein said. “It is the time for everyone to have it. It is something that pays for itself; we know that from the G.I. Bill for every dollar we put in we get seven dollars in return from that educated young person having a college degree.”