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Student Loan Reform Proposals: 2016 Presidential Candidates

In the 2016 presidential election, a growing problem is beginning to wiggle its way into the debate: the student loan epidemic. For a number of years, many jobs that did not require higher education were exported overseas, and as such, the need for college education has dramatically increased. As the necessity of higher education has grown we have seen the costs of tuition skyrocket. It is this change in the education market that has forced most students to taking out loans. However with tuition costs at all time highs, students are finding themselves in a stranglehold of debts at the start of their careers. With this problem growing yearly, many of the presidential candidates in the 2016 election have put forth their possible solutions to the student loans crisis.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton announced her plan to help ease the burden of Student loans dubbed “The New College Compact”. Her plan calls for $350 Billion that will be allocated to the states. As part of the plan, $170 Billion will be given to states who agree to keep their state university budget at current rates. The intention is that the money would go to students who plan to go to public colleges. As part of the plan, students will be granted a portion of government money (to be determined based on a financial aid calculator) to create a plan determining how much a student would need annually, and require each student to work at least 10 hours weekly. Any money granted to a student is meant to go towards a 4 year public university degree and necessary housing expenses.

Under the plan, the government budget for Pell grants will be raised as well. The remaining money will be used to provide aided tuition for military veterans and Americorp volunteers. The final proposed action of the New College compact would allow students to refinance their loans at current rates capping the percent of maximum payments at 10% of income. She also has hopes to grant loan forgiveness of any outstanding student debts that have yet to be paid within 20 years of graduation.

Marco Rubio

Senator Marco Rubio’s approach to the student debt crisis is very different from his Republican and Democrat constituents. Unlike most elected officials, Rubio entered office as one of the poorest senators ever. He is so young that he was still paying off his student loans from the University of Miami Law school when he entered his tenure as senator. Much of Rubio’s plan is a joint effort between himself and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) called “The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act”.

The main purpose of the bill is to simplify President Barack Obama’s 2010 Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) plan. The current PAYE plan is somewhat complicated as it requires students to enter multiple repayment plans at the same time. Many students don’t even know of its existence. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would streamline the process setting a progressive repayment scale based on income and would pay loans automatically by deducting payments directly from a paycheck.

Under this proposed system students may not have to worry about defaulting on loans and will only pay when their diploma is generating “value”. A borrower would not be liable to make payments while unemployed.

Another major portion of Rubio’s position has been based on access of information. Rubio working again with Democrat Senator Warner passed “The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2013”. The bill changed the guidelines on college reporting. This allowed students a better ability to judge school graduation rates, average debts of students at a school and average earnings in particular areas of study at a given school.The idea behind this bill was that if students could better see the value of a given school’s degree then that student might choose to attend more affordable public college that is comparatively better than a more expensive private college counterpart.

In addition Rubio has proposed driving down the cost of universities by encouraging additional competition. Rubio has propositioned that the universities offer alternative accreditation programs. These programs would offer students free credits for work experience as well as military experience. He also believes schools should offer credits for free online course work.

Bernie Sanders

While Hillary Clinton has a split responsibility system, and Senator Rubio has interest in reforming the system to avoid a student loan crisis, Bernie Sanders has a much more drastic approach to the hot-button issue of student loans. Sanders has proposed that congress take $750 Billion and give it out amongst the states to offer all students free public college. This idea has been bounced around by many Democrats, chiefly President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Only in the case of Obama and Warren, the proposed coverage is for a 2-year community college. Sanders would like to take that a step further and provide a free 4-year Bachelors Degree. He intends to pay for this by shifting the cost of education from the individual to the collective taxpayers.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush’s stance on Student loan is about university accountability. In 2012 Bush proposed using federal loans as tool for holding schools accountable. He stated in multiple interviews that if a college fails to provide an adequate education to obtain gainful employment they should not receive federal student loans. This is a stance he has backed away from in recent years as he refused to support President Obama’s “Gainful Employment” rule. More recently Bush expressed interest in the implementation of an incentive based program where schools would receive tax breaks for taking efforts to drive down admission costs. He is also a huge supporter of online colleges such as DeVry and Kaplan. He sees them as a way of creating competition that will ultimately drive down college costs and at the very least give less wealthy students a more affordable college option.

Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul has one of the most unique stances on fixing the student loan system. He believes in making college tuition completely tax deductible. His proposal came as a response to President Obama’s proposal for Tuition-Free education. When asked about the President’s idea, Senator Paul responded stating [rather than shifting the burden of cost on to the taxpayers] “I have a better idea. Let's let college students deduct the entire cost of their educations over their working careers”. This plan would allow students to pay off their debts on their own and let their educations pay for themselves without having to feel the burden of the debt.