Student loans have become a hot topic among the 2020 race for president, with Democrats candidates such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders calling for tuition-free college and mass forgiveness of student loans.
But how does a typical student loan borrower feel about these proposals? Student Loan Hero spoke with the following seven borrowers to find out how the issue will (or won’t) impact their vote:
- Rudolph: Mass loan forgiveness will solve student debt crisis
- Hall: Student loan forgiveness unfair to borrowers who paid off their loans
- Jeneault: Mass loan forgiveness nice, but not realistic
- Burr: Taxpayers would bear the burden of mass loan forgiveness
- Perrin: Candidates should focus on free college tuition
- Wiggins: Student loan forgiveness is a top priority for me
- Levine: Forgiving student debt, eliminating tuition would help the economy
Writer, editor and graduate of the University of Southern California, Kalev Rudolph, says the student loan issue is “sure to affect [his] vote.”
“Witnessing how hard it is to get ahead of student loans, and watching my loved ones try to cope is not fun,” Rudolph said. “I have never been more certain we need a significant change coming from the federal government, down.”
In particular, Rudolph supports the mass loan forgiveness and tuition-free college proposals put out by Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders.
“Seeing how revolutionary and influential the erasure of this debt would be, I have been incredibly excited by Sens. Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s plans to end student debt,” Rudolph said. “If hopefully, either of them makes it to the Democratic ticket, they will have my vote.”
Given his own experience with student loans and those of his friends and family, Rudolph says loan forgiveness is a deciding factor in who gets his vote.
“I will stand with any candidate who offers debt forgiveness,” said Rudolph. “I am praying this is the election cycle [in which] the USA will finally address these crooked policies. Support the citizens trying to better their lives, rather than the mass profits of private and public higher education institutions.”
Unlike Rudolph, student loan borrower and communications specialist Alina Hall doesn’t think student loan forgiveness would be the right path forward.
“I think the student loan crisis is an issue, but I do not support the idea of mass student loan forgiveness or free college tuition,” Hall said. “I believe loans from the federal government should have a limit based on the predicted income of the career a student is studying towards.”
In particular, Hall believes a student’s major and career plans should determine how much they can borrow.
“I would support a policy that would limit federal student loans overall, but give a higher percentage of loan to someone studying a field that will benefit society (like medicine) over someone studying communications (which is what my degree is in),” said Hall. “I believe these federal loans, which are backed by taxpayers, are in a risky situation because of the high percentage of people who refuse [or] can’t pay back their loans.”
Given her own experience paying off loans, Hall also feels it might be unfair for other students to have their debt wiped away.
“My student loans are completely paid off,” she said. “I believe other former students can keep the same practices we did — living on a budget and below our means to pay off those loans as soon as possible.”
Liz Jeneault, student loan borrower and vice president of marketing for product review site Faveable, appreciates that candidates are talking about the student loan issue. But she too doesn’t necessarily think mass forgiveness is the solution.
“I have tens of thousands of dollars remaining in student loan debt, and because of that, I obviously care what the 2020 candidates have to say about the issue,” Jeneault said. “I know Bernie Sanders has floated a plan to eliminate all student loan debt. While that sounds wonderful to me, I feel like it’s unrealistic.”
That said, Jeneault is very interested in seeing political leaders bring this issue to the forefront of the national conversation, particularly as it relates to student loan interest rates.
“I would like to see candidates talk more about the issue,” she said. “I am specifically interested in seeing candidates talk about ways to reduce or eliminate the interest rate charged on student loans.”
For Jeneault, candidates who talk about capping interest rates on federal student loans or providing low-rate student loan refinancing solutions would be most appealing.
Student loan borrower and human resources consultant Matthew Burr would oppose any proposals to forgive student loans on a mass scale, saying that taxpayers would carry the costs of a national forgiveness plan.
“My taxes would pay for someone else’s student loan debt,” Burr said. “I do not believe that we should be promising mass student loan forgiveness to everyone.”
He also objects to the idea that the government would wipe the slate clean for other student loan borrowers, given his own experience paying off debt.
“I successfully paid off $74,000 of student loan debt in less than 24 months,” he said. “I know not everyone can make extreme payments like me. However, the debt is their debt, [and] they should pay their own bills.”
But while Burr doesn’t support loan forgiveness on a mass scale, he did note that he believes in reducing the cost of college.
As a dual citizen of Switzerland and the U.S. who attended college in the States, Sofya Perrin, who now works in marketing, couldn’t believe the high price tags that come with American higher education.
“As a Swiss citizen, the cost of college in America is even more mind-boggling to me because even graduate programs in Switzerland cost around $1,000 per semester,” Perrin said. “While I’m supportive of mass student loan forgiveness, I think the end goal should always be free, or at least more affordable college tuition.”
While Perrin earned a full-tuition scholarship for her studies, she recognizes that many other students aren’t so lucky.
“People should not have to be burdened with such massive debt just to get a college degree, especially since it is a requirement for most middle-class jobs in today’s professional world,” she said. “I’m supportive of any candidate that promises to address this issue and work towards a more equitable higher education system.”
For student loan borrower, voice actor and writer Brian Wiggins, the issue of student loans will heavily influence his choice of candidate.
“Student loan forgiveness will absolutely play a role in my voting decision in 2020,” he said. “I just need a little help to get ahead. I just need it to be a little easier day-to-day.”
After graduating in 2008, Wiggins struggled to find a job, which made it difficult to keep up with student loan payments.
“I was saddled with a student debt that was unaffordable, and I had to refinance so I could make the monthly payments, but I will not be done paying my loans until I am 60 years old,” Wiggins said.
As of now, he’s most drawn to Sen. Warren and her plan for loan forgiveness. Wiggins believes Warren’s approach won’t just help student loan borrowers like himself, but will also stimulate the economy as a whole.
“Without student debt, we’ll be free to spend money elsewhere: buying homes, home improvement projects, going out to eat once a week, maybe even take a vacation,” he said. “These will all be things that will bolster a strong economy and a strong middle class.”
Andie Levine, a 27-year-old student loan borrower and public relations account manager from Philadelphia, says she wouldn’t support any candidate who doesn’t have a proposal to tackle the student loan crisis in some way.
“I would not be comfortable voting for a candidate whose platform didn’t address the student loan crisis and consider a plan for free college tuition,” Levine said. “I believe there would be no faster stimulus to the economy than student loan forgiveness.”
Like Wiggins, Levine is particularly interested in Sen. Warren and her support for tuition- and debt-free college.
“I’m excited about Elizabeth Warren’s plan, and I believe she is best suited to advocate for this issue due to her experience in education,” Levine said. “She understands the importance of higher education and the doors it can open for students, but that it shouldn’t cost you your future.”
Not only does Levine think these measures will benefit the economy as a whole, but she’s also eager to shed her own student debt.
“Personally, I would be able to purchase a home within a year if I didn’t have student loan payments,” she said. “However, I still have about eight more years and will not be financially stable until 2028.”
Will student loans impact your vote?
While student loans didn’t make as much of an appearance during the 2016 presidential election, this issue is front and center this time around.
While some candidates propose eliminating college tuition and federal student debt altogether, others suggest partial loan forgiveness, capping federal loan interest rates or providing more flexible refinancing options for borrowers.
Whatever your opinion on this issue, you can stay up to date on this ongoing issue in Student Loan Hero’s coverage on the 2020 presidential candidates and student loans. By following the proposals and platforms out there, you can make sure your vote best reflects the policies you support.