Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a 2020 presidential candidate, has an ambitious plan to cancel your student loan debt.
Here are 7 questions for the senator:
7 Questions For Bernie Sanders
The promise of total student loan forgiveness is music to the ears of anyone with student loan debt. However, not everyone is so excited, especially federal taxpayers who are concerned they ultimately will pay the price. With this backdrop in mind, students, borrowers, taxpayers, educators, policymakers and many others are interested to understand more about your plan.
1. Would you place any limits on student loan forgiveness?
Sanders has pledged to cancel all $1.6 trillion of student loan debt, including federal student loans and private student loans. Under the Sanders plan, everyone receives student loan forgiveness. No questions asked. If elected president, do you believe this is the fairest approach, or should there be any income limitations above which borrowers would not receive student loan forgiveness, for example?
2. Do you believe that a president can cancel all student loan debt without approval from Congress?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a 2020 presidential candidate, said she would cancel student loans on her first day as president. The former Harvard Law School professor argues that the U.S. Department of Education has the authority to cancel student loan debt and she would instruct the Secretary of Education to begin student loan forgiveness. As a member of Congress, do you believe that this is constitutionally sound and that Congress has zero role in any $1.6 trillion student loan forgiveness plan?
3. Will student loan cancellation happen once, or do you plan to cancel student loan debt in the future too?
If you cancel student loan debt, any borrower who has student loan debt on that day would no longer have student loan debt and get a fresh start. However, any current college student, for example, may need to borrow more student loan debt tomorrow, next semester or next year. What happens to the student loan debt of these future borrowers who also want to pay off student loans faster?
4. You also have proposed tuition-free public colleges and universities. Would you also consider making public colleges and universities completely free?
Tuition-free college means that students would not pay tuition costs or fees to attend a public college or university. However, this plan currently does not include all college expenses such as room and board and other living expenses, for example. Tuition is one part of the financial picture. Do you plan to cover these costs as well. and if not, why? If a prospective student cannot cover these non-tuition costs through scholarships or grants, that student may need to borrow thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to cover these costs.
5. Your tuition-free college plan only applies to public colleges and universities. What is the potential financial impact to private colleges and universities as well as the potential economic impact to the communities in which they operate?
Tuition-free college can benefit students and parents who save money for college. What will happen to private colleges and universities who do not have large endowments? These colleges and universities – and the people who work there – depend on tuition as a prime source of income to operate the university. What is the financial impact to these schools if their public counterparts are made tuition-free? What happens to the communities – including small businesses and real estate prices – if these colleges and universities suffer financially or even close their doors?
6. Would you consider making graduate school tuition-free?
Currently, the Sanders plan does not make graduate school tuition-free. Certainly, making college tuition-free is an ambitious first step. Graduate student loan debt represents about half of all student loan debt. Yes, graduate degree-holders, on average, earn higher income than college graduates. However, many graduate school borrowers also struggle to repay student loan debt. Is it fair to help graduate school borrowers leave school with less student loan debt?
7. Would you consider compensating anyone who has already paid off their student loans? Is it fair that they too get “student loan forgiveness?”
Currently, your student loan forgiveness plan forgives student loan debt for anyone holding a student loan. As you know, millions of Americans have already paid off their student loans – and more will this year. As part of your plan, would you consider either through direct compensation or a tax credit to make them whole? Many of these student loan borrowers likely struggled to pay off their student loans too. Does fairness dictate that they should receive financial relief?