As borrowers face a mounting burden, and Democrats angle for support from young primary voters, Warren and her rivals have embraced loan forgiveness plans. In a video accompanying the announcement of her proposal, Warren argued for her proposal in part by saying “young people can’t buy homes, they can’t start businesses.”
The senator’s proposal would eliminate up to $50,000 in debt for people with household incomes under $100,000, while giving smaller amounts of relief to people with higher incomes. People making $250,000 or more would get no forgiveness. To prevent future students from racking up debt, Warren also aims to make public college tuition-free.
Yang says he wants to “explore a blanket partial reduction” in student loan principal and ask schools to forgive part of all of the debt for students who do not graduate, among other proposals. Booker also told South Carolina students that he wants to look into loan forgiveness, although he has not released a specific proposal yet.
Other 2020 candidates such as Sens. Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand have endorsed Sanders’ free college legislation. Those senators, along with Warren and Booker, also endorsed a debt-free college bill proposed by Sen. Brian Schatz.
Plans to relieve student debt hold obvious political appeal for voters eager to shed hundreds of dollars in loan payments every month. It remains to be seen, though, how much voters care about student debt relative to other issues.
Liz Smith, a 24-year-old who works in advertising in Des Moines, Iowa, says she took on more than $30,000 in debt to get through Iowa State University. While her loan payments have not started yet, Smith recently bought a car and worries about making car and loan payments at the same time. Still, she currently thinks taking on the debt will prove worthwhile.
“I wish it wasn’t that much debt, but I don’t think I would be able to kind of make a career that I would have wanted without a degree,” she said.
Smith plans to participate in the first-in-the-nation Iowa Democratic caucuses next year and vote in the general election. While she said student loan policy is not her top priority, she noted that “it’ll definitely be nice to have a candidate that I think has a good plan for student debt and college costs and making all of that more manageable.”