2020 candidates’ plans for reducing college costs

Natalie Agnew, Sports Editor

The burden of college cost is an expense that can make a degree unattainable or follow those who choose to attend long into their lives. With seniors leaving for college and juniors just beginning the college process, cost and eventual debt are important considerations. Juniors and seniors will have a voice in changing their financial fate.

With the 2020 election, a majority of both classes will have the opportunity to vote for a candidate with a plan to reduce college costs and student debt. This is one issue that could have a direct impact on students’ lives, for better or for worse. The field this election season is full of candidates with differing views on lessening costs; some seek to eliminate it, while others take a more moderate approach.

Let’s begin with an ambitious one, Elizabeth Warren’s platform of universal free public colleges and cancellation of student loan debt. According to the New York Times, she would start by eliminating tuition to public two-year and four-year college in partnerships with states. She would also give a boost of $50 billion in aid to historically black colleges.

This proposal is meant to promote education equity for minorities and others who would not go to college otherwise, due to the cost. Then Warren would allow people making less than $100,000 a year to get $50,000 in student debt forgiven, with a scale of debt forgiveness up to those with an income of $250,000, according to an article in Time Magazine. “The enormous student debt burden weighing down our economy isn’t the result of laziness or irresponsibility,” Warren wrote in a blog post in February when announcing her candidacy. “It’s the result of a government that has consistently put the interests of the wealthy and well-connected over the interests of working families.” The plan would cost $1.25 trillion over 10 years.

Warren claims that the money for this plan would come from her proposed “ultra-millionaire tax.” “It’s time to fundamentally transform our tax code so that we tax the wealth of the ultra-rich, not just their income,” said Warren when unveiling the plan. “By asking our top 75,000 households to pay their fair share, my proposal will help address runaway wealth concentration and at the same time accelerate badly needed investments in rebuilding our middle class.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders takes a similar stance when it comes to eliminating the high price of college. In his 2017 “College For All Act,” Sanders proposes the elimination of undergraduate tuition at public institutions. It also discussed cutting the student loan interest rate in half and other ways to make debt less of a burden on the lower income and middle-class families. Senator Kamala Harris, a cosponsor of Sanders’ “College For All Act,” has a different stance: debt free and loan free college, but not tuition free. This means that the rich, those who can afford it, pay tuition, while those who can’t, go for free.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg shares Harris’ views, supporting the reduction of college costs but not the total abolishment of tuition. He also supports incentives for states to fund higher education. Kirsten Gillibrand supports the 2018 Debt-Free College Act with Harris, Warren, and Senator Cory Booker, but the rest of her plan diverges from the norm. She proposes that if students complete one year of public service after finishing high school it should equate to two years of tuition-free education at a public community college or university.

Two years of public service would mean four free years of public education. Booker is a significant cosponsor of the Debt-Free College Act, and has his own proposal of what he calls a “baby bond.” This is a savings account that starts at birth for every American child with federal money that could ultimately go towards college tuition if they so choose. Joe Biden said he was for free public college in 2015.

Then his plan estimated it would cost about $6 billion a year and would increase the number of college students to nine million. The money to fund the 2015 plan would come from a tax code revision eliminating something called the “stepped-up basis loophole” hat currently lets heirs evade capital gains taxes on inherited assets. He has not elaborated on the specifics of his plan since announcing his 2020 candidacy.

Democrats Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourke have all voiced support for two free years of community college, but have expressed opposition to free college. O’Rourke is against free college but for Castro’s debt reduction. Castro wants community college, apprenticeships, and certification programs to be free. Klobuchar is for expanded Pell Grants for tuition for low-income students, combined with free community college, but not free college. “I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs. I do. Don’t look, it’s not there. I wish I could do that but I have to be straight with you,” said Klobuchar in her CNN town hall on Monday, April 22.

President Donald Trump has said multiple times that he is not for debt relief, just streamlining repayment options of loans. He is also for grant money for low-income students in career preparation programs and capping student loans. All of the candidates propose some level of debt and college cost reduction, so their other policies ideas could be a distinguishing factor. This time, this election, the choice to some degree belongs to students. According to the Pew Research in 2018, “Millennials are expected to overtake Boomers in population in 2019 as their numbers swell to 73 million and Boomers decline to 72 million.” Given Pew’s numbers make sure to vote in 2020. 2