As the student loan debt continues to climb, many Americans are desperate for ways to cancel theirs. For most, that chance won't come under the current administration. With his 2020 budget proposal, which applies to the 2021 fiscal year that starts this October, President Trump wants to eliminate the student loan forgiveness program. His budget blueprint includes massive cuts to education as a whole, but with the 2020 election in full swing, the issue of student loans has become particularly contentious.
Over the past decade, Americans' total student loan debt has more than doubled, reaching a high of $1.6 trillion. Programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, created by President George W. Bush in 2007, are one of the few that can offer people relief. Through that program, people can have their federal student loans forgiven if they're employed full-time at a nonprofit or work in a public service industry like nursing or teaching. Although there are plenty of fair critiques of the program — like the fact that 99% of applicants were denied last year — Trump's idea to completely cut it without a better alternative isn't the solution.
This isn't the first time Trump has tried to end the loan forgiveness program. He went after it in 2018, too. Although Trump promised to "fix" student loan debt in March 2019, the president's latest budget proposal shows that he is far behind his 2020 rivals on the issue.
In April 2019, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her plan to cancel student debt. The amount of debt eligible to be erased under Warren's plan is dependent on income. Overall, Warren says that her plan would cancel debt for more than 95% of people with student loan debt.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, also has his own plan to cancel student debt. Unlike Warren, Sanders' plan is to eliminate all student debt, regardless of income. Politico reported that Sanders told an audience at a campaign event that "if we could bail out Wall Street, we sure as hell can reduce student debt in this country."
Both Sanders and Warren have pointed out the racial inequalities embedded within student loan debt. For example, the Brookings Institute found that four years after graduation, Black graduates have almost $25,000 more in student loan debt than white graduates. In addition, previous studies found that Black students hold more debt by age 25 compared to their white counterparts regardless of family income and wealth.
Student loan debt can have a dramatic impact on people's lives, including on their mental health. As the 2020 presidential election continues to heat up, it's likely that student loans will continue to be a big issue among candidates.