Note: As more information about candidates’ student loan platform arises, we’ll keep this post updated.
As the 2020 election approaches and the political race heats up, more candidates will be sharing their platforms and views in hopes of being elected as president.
Knowing where candidates stand is an important part of voting. If you’re a student loan borrower, you’re probably curious where the 2020 presidential candidates fall on student loan policy and reform.
Ranked: 2020 presidential candidates student loan platforms
The fact is, there are a lot of candidates running in the 2020 race. According to The New York Times, 23 Democrats and two Republicans are running for president in 2020. There are some veteran politicians as well as newbies in the race, and many of them have discussed student loans as part of their platforms.
To help you get a high-level view of each candidate’s position regarding student loans, we’ve ranked the candidates from the most-generous student loan platforms and policies to least-generous.
1. Bernie Sanders
Student loan stance: Cancel all student loan debt, refinance at lower rates and cap interest rates on new student loans.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., recently announced his plan to cancel all student loan debt, which would eliminate close to $1.6 trillion dollars of debt. On his site, he mentions how student loan debt is often carried largely by women and people of color. By eliminating student loan debt, Bernie Sanders is hoping to close the racial wealth gap.
You can find info on all of his student loan policies here.
2. Wayne Messam
Student loan stance: Cancel all student debt.
Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida, has one of the most robust plans for student loan reform. He wants to cancel all student loan debt and pay for it by repealing tax cuts made by President Donald Trump. He believes this would be an economic stimulus for the country.
3. Eric Swalwell
Student loan stance: Eliminate interest rates, get employers to help with cost and more.
Eric Swalwell, a congressman from California, has been open about his student loan debt struggle, paying around $600 per month toward his debt. He wants to be considered the “student debt solutions candidate” and has proposed cutting interest rates to 0%, creating opportunities for debt-free college and getting employers on board to help borrowers pay back their loans.
4. Elizabeth Warren
Student loan stance: Cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt, depending on income.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has one of the most progressive student loan platforms. She is proposing canceling up to $50,000 for student loan borrowers. This plan would wipe out student loan debt for 75% of borrowers, and 95% of borrowers would get some debt canceled.
How much you’d be eligible for would depend on income. Borrowers who make less than $100,000 would get the full $50,000 canceled, while borrowers who earn $100,000 to $250,000 would qualify for some cancellation. The benefit caps out at $250,000, and borrowers who earn more than that would not be eligible for any cancellation.
The plan would help close the wealth gap among people of color and boost the middle class.
5. Andrew Yang
Student loan stance: Partial student loan forgiveness, payments based on income and making bankruptcy more accessible.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has a number of interesting ideas surrounding student loan policy. He wants to ensure student loan borrowers get access to low interest rates and that current borrowers can refinance to lower rates. He’s also proposing a “Bailout for the People,” which would reduce or forgive a portion of debt for recent graduates.
Additionally, he proposes working with schools to forgive part or all of the student loan debt from students who didn’t graduate. Instead of paying a fixed amount, he’s proposing that borrowers pay a percentage of their income.
To support borrowers who obtained loans under false pretenses, he supports forgiving or lowering their debt and making it easier to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. He also wants to create a grant program that forgives the debt of borrowers who serve in rural or underserved areas.
6. Kamala Harris
Student loan stance: Make income driven-repayment the default plan and reduce tuition.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has been a vocal supporter of debt-free college and is against for-profit colleges. Previously, she co-sponsored the Debt-Free College Act of 2018 and supported Sanders’ College For All Act in 2017, which would work toward reducing or eliminating tuition at universities.
With regard to current student loan borrowers, she’s suggested making income-driven repayment the default plan instead of the Standard Repayment Plan. This could help limit default and delinquency.
Additionally, she’s proposed capping federal interest rates at 3.5% and allowing borrowers to refinance to lower their interest rates. She’s also been a strong proponent of the Borrower Defense to Repayment, a program to help forgive loans from borrowers who went to for-profit colleges that defraud students.
You can find more about Harris’ student loan policy info here and on her campaign website.
7. Pete Buttigieg
Student loan stance: Confront student loan debt and make college free for low-income families.
As the youngest presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg brings a new, vibrant energy to the race. Buttigieg is mayor of South Bend, Indiana and his husband is a teacher. Together, they have $130,000 in student loan debt. On his website, he says it’s crucial to make college free for lower-income families, and he plans to do that through state-federal partnerships.
Additionally, college would be free for public university students who are middle class. Historically Black Colleges and similar institutions would also receive additional financial support.
When it comes to student loan policy, there are less concrete plans, but according to his site, it includes:
- Confronting student loan debt
- Providing more support for students entering public service
- Ensuring the highest degree of transparency and accountability for higher education institutions
- Applying strict standards to for-profit higher education institutions
As time goes on, hopefully we’ll get more details on what this plan looks like, but it appears this is an issue on his radar.
You can find more information on Buttigieg’s student loan policies on his campaign site.
8. Marianne Williamson
Student loan stance: Lower interest rate, lower forgiveness term and remove cap on subsidized loans.
Author Marianne Williamson has some big ideas when it comes to educational reform, including reform of the current testing standards and boosting teacher training and retention. She’s open to free college or technical school for qualified students — although she doesn’t explain what this means — and if that’s not possible, she’s open to a payroll tax or offsets with public service.
She’s interested in lowering the interest rate on student loans, potentially down to 0%. Additionally, she wants to reduce student loan forgiveness terms from 10 to five years, presumably with Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). On top of that, she wants to eliminate origination fees on federal student loans, while removing the cap on subsidized loans. Removing these caps and having 0% rate loans would save borrowers significant amounts in interest.
You can find all of Williamson’s education and student loan policies on her website.
9. Tulsi Gabbard
Student loan stance: Make tuition free for families earning less than $125,000.
Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, is a combat veteran with scant info on her website about any student loan platforms. In the past, she has supported the idea of free college and co-sponsored Sanders’ College for All Act, which would make tuition free for families earning less than $125,000 and make community college free for everyone.
10. Tim Ryan
Student loan stance: Tuition-free college, debt relief and making education more affordable.
Student debt not only makes buying a home difficult, but it’s a major obstacle for many Americans to invest in their own future. Student debt has skyrocketed to $1.5 trillion. It’s outrageous. It’s why I’m fighting for tuition-free and debt-free college.”
He cosigned the College For All Act, the Debt-Free College Partnerships Act and the Aim Higher Act, which seek to make education more affordable.
You can find more about Ryan’s campaign on his campaign website.
11. Joe Biden
Student loan stance: Expand PSLF; also supports free college.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is one of the top contenders in the 2020 race but has been more quiet on the student loan front. Biden has proposed making changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, making it easier for teachers.
Aside from that, he hasn’t commented much on student loan reform. He’s been vocal about his support for free college, encouraging free education for 16 years instead of 12 years.
Learn more about Biden’s education and student loan policies here.
12. Kirsten Gillibrand
Student loan stance: Refinance at lower rates, more affordable college and free college for families earning less than $125,000.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wants to make college more affordable for everyone by allowing graduates to refinance their student loans at a lower rate. On top of that, she is proposing federal matching funds to work with states — this would prevent undergrads from taking on loans as part of the Debt-Free College Act of 2018.
You can find more information about her student loan policies here.
13. Beto O’Rourke
Student loan stance: Refinancing to get lower rates, expand PSLF and provide free community college.
Texan Beto O’Rourke, who lost the U.S. Senate election to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, last year, is running for president and wants college to be more affordable for borrowers. He wants to see community college be free but isn’t necessarily okay with free college for all.
For current borrowers, he’s mentioned the possibility of lowering rates through refinancing and expanding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Additionally, O’Rourke has mentioned forgiving student loans for borrowers who move to underserved areas as well as for teachers who work in underserved schools.
14. John Hickenlooper
Student loan stance: Cut interest rate to 2.5%, expand forgiveness options and make community college free.
Former mayor of Denver and former governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper hasn’t come out and said much about student loan reform, and he doesn’t have info on his site.
However, he’s said that he’d like to get the interest rate down to 2.5% and has discussed the potential for more forgiveness options with public service. In the past, he’s also pledged to make community college free for students.
You can find more info about his campaign here.
15. John Delaney
Student loan stance: Make bankruptcy more accessible for private loan borrowers, provide more grants and make college more affordable.
John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, states on his website that he wants to make education more affordable by reducing the costs of student loans and providing more grants to lower-income families.
Additionally, he introduced legislation to help aid public and private student loan borrowers discharge their loans in bankruptcy.
16. Amy Klobuchar
Student loan stance: Refinancing to a lower rate and free two-year college.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is against debt-free college but is in favor of free tuition for two-year colleges. To help ease the burden for current borrowers, she’s interested in refinancing so borrowers can get a lower rate.
Amy supports allowing borrowers to refinance student loans at lower rates, loan forgiveness for in-demand occupations, expanded Pell grants, and tuition-free one- and two-year community college degrees and technical certifications.”
Here’s more information about Klobuchar’s student loan policies.
17. Cory Booker
Student loan stance: Access to lower rates, simplify student loan process and provide bonds for education.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, supports the idea of refinancing for student loan borrowers to access lower rates and wants to make the student loan process more simpler and more accessible.
While he doesn’t have information on student loan platform policies on his website, he does propose a “baby bonds” program, which would work to close the racial wealth gap by providing a federally-backed savings account for every child in America. Cory is a co-sponsor of the Debt-Free College Act of 2018.
You can find more campaign information on Booker’s website.
18. Donald Trump
Student loan stance: Eliminate PSLF and expand income-driven repayment; cap payments at 12.5%.
Trump plans on running again in 2020, and his 2020 budget plan outlines some changes for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. Under his proposed changes, there would be a single IDR plan that would cap borrowers’ payments at 12.5%.
According to the plan, undergraduate borrowers with a balance after 180 months would have their debt forgiven, while graduate students would have any remaining balance forgiven after 30 years. The budget calls for eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to pay for this. These changes would be effective for student loan borrowers after July 1, 2020.
Here’s more information about Trump’s 2020 budget plans.
19. Steve Bullock
Student loan stance: Make student loans a priority.
Governor of Montana, Steve Bullock hasn’t explicitly outlined what his student loan platform or policies include, but he wrote a Medium post on the subject. In this post, he wrote:
Student loan debt in our country reached $1.5 trillion last year, surpassing the total credit card debt for the first time. One in six graduates have debt that exceeds their income, and the burden of student debt falls disproportionately on women. With the price of education skyrocketing since I went to school, it’s nearly impossible to graduate without a significant amount of debt — especially for folks from working families and the middle class.
“Addressing our student loan crisis is more than a moral imperative. This debt is dragging our economy and creates a significant barrier to the ladder of opportunity for our future leaders. We owe it to them to relate to their experience, to offer solutions, and to make their American dream possible.”
Though it’s unclear what he plans on doing, he’s made it clear that student loan debt is at the forefront of his mind and a focus of his campaign.
You can find more information about Bullock on his campaign website.
20. Jay Inslee
Student loan stance: Protect student loan borrowers from bad practices from loan servicers.
Governor of Washington Jay Inslee hasn’t made any statements about higher education or student loan policy yet. However, he has signed a bill to help protect student loan borrowers and to get them the right treatment and assistance from their loan servicers.
You can find more information about Inslee’s campaign on his site.
21. William F. Weld
Student loan stance: Repeal provision that student debt can’t be negotiated.
William F. Weld is a former governor of Massachusetts and is the only other Republican candidate so far. Though there’s no information on his site about his student loan policies, he did say in an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio that addressing the cost of college is a high priority.
He would also repeal the provision that student loan debt can’t be negotiated. Weld acknowledged how much student loan debt affects young borrowers.
Find more information about Weld’s campaign here.
22. Seth Moulton
Student loan stance: Considering student loan forgiveness.
Seth Moulton, a congressman from Massachusetts and former Iraq war veteran, doesn’t have an outlined student loan platform on his website. But he has said no to free college as a proposal, while considering student loan forgiveness as an option.
You can find more information about Moulton on his campaign page.
Other 2020 candidates: Little information about student loans
Aside from the 22 candidates listed above, there are three more candidates that were not included in the ranking. These candidates were not included either because they have not made any public comment yet on the issue or there’s minimal information.
Former mayor of San Antonio and former housing secretary Julián Castro has no declarations on student loan policy or reform on his website as of yet. But in an interview with Salon, when asked about student loans, he responded, “We need to erase it.” How he plans on doing that is yet to be seen. For more information, visit his campaign page.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., served as the former Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools. Bennet has worked to change the No Child Left Behind Act and has striven to improve teacher training and provide more educational resources.
Though he has a background in education, currently there’s not a lot of information on his student loan reform policies or platform. Check out his campaign website for more information.
Bill de Blasio
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, is running in 2020 but so far hasn’t made any comments regarding student loan policies or reform. You can find more information about Blasio on his campaign website.