Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton introduced her higher education plan, called the New College Compact, in August 2015. Under the new plan, college tuition costs would be calculated and paid for based on family income and individual earnings. The calculation would ensure that students would never have to take out loans to pay for tuition, books and fees. There would also be “no-debt tuition” for all students to attend a four-year public college or university in their state. The cost to attend community college would be tuition–free for all students. Interest rates on existing student loans, taken out by and public and private college students, would be significantly decreased, and the current income-based repayment options would be simplified. Clinton’s campaign said the plan would encourage higher college completion rates. States will be given $175 billion in grants to lower the cost of public education and will be incentivized to increase control over the growth of tuition costs. Private non-profit colleges and universities with smaller endowments and that serve a high number of Pell Grant recipients will be provided with funds to help lower their cost of attendance. The plan entails a $350 billion price tag that Clinton proposes will be paid for by tax adjustments for the wealthy. The new plan would make sure “no family and no student will have to borrow to pay tuition at a public college or university,” Clinton said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire in August 2015. “And everyone who has student debt should be able to finance it at lower rates.”
Democrat Bernie Sanders said college tuition should be free for any student who wants to attend a public college or university. He does not state anything specifically about private colleges on his website. His plan, which is called the College for All Act, would require the federal government to provide states with two-thirds of the cost of public college tuition and fees. State governments would have to pay for the remaining one-third of costs. States would be provided $47 billion per year to be used toward eliminating undergraduate tuition and fees at public universities and colleges. Sanders’ plan would allow for current college debt holders to refinance their loans, including those at private colleges — meaning they can reapply for the loan at a lower interest rate — require banks to lower their borrowing rates for all students and encourage state governments to control the costs of their public universities. He has also said his plan would encourage colleges to rely less on lesser–paid adjunct faculty so that students could spend more time being taught by tenured professors. Sanders’ plan would also expand work-study programs and make it so students would not have to reapply for financial aid every year. Sanders has said on top of the College for All Act, the cost of college tuition at public universities and colleges would be completely free and funded by a “Robin Hood Tax” on Wall Street. This would be a speculation fee of 0.05 percent on all stock trades that hedge funds speculators would have to pay.
Republican Donald Trump has criticized the government for the student debt crisis and what he says is the government’s profiting off student loans. “I think it’s terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans,” Trump said in an interview with The Hill. However, he has not released any details on how he plans to reform student loan programs at private or public colleges and universities.
Republican Ted Cruz’s plan to ensure college affordability, both public and private, remains unclear. In 2014, he voted to block a bill that would help students who have borrowed money to refinance their loans at a lower rate. According to Cruz’s campaign website, as president, he will get rid of the Department of Education entirely and completely block grant education funding to states.
Republican candidate Marco Rubio said he will lower the cost of attending college by increasing competition among private and public schools. He aims to change college and university accreditation standards so more schools can compete with one another. He also plans to create an income-based repayment program for graduates and start “student investment programs” that would allow people to invest in students’ education by paying for their tuition in return for a portion of their future income. Rubio also said he will require public colleges and universities to provide data to potential students about how much they can expect to earn upon graduation from their institution. Last year, Rubio introduced a bipartisan bill in the Senate that would help with the current student loan debt crisis. The bill proposed that students who take out federal loans be automatically enrolled in a repayment plan based on income. In an interview with Fox News, Rubio said, “Our problem isn’t just that college is expensive. It’s that our system is outdated.” Rubio said he will modernize the education system by easing access to state colleges and online educational systems as well as increasing access to low–cost vocational training for high school students. Rubio himself has paid off over $150,000 in student loans.
Republican Ben Carson has said he believes the cost of college is too high and that student debt has risen too fast. However, he has yet to propose a plan to ensure college affordability and combat the student debt crisis at private and public colleges and universities.
Republican Jeb Bush’s plan would eliminate the federal student loan program and replace it with a new one that would be based on the student’s income. Under the plan, the federal government would give every high school graduate $50,000 in credit to pay for college — private or public. Graduates would then have to repay however much they borrowed through their federal income taxes over a 25-year period. The repayments would require borrowers to pay back 1 percent of their income for each $10,000 borrowed. Bush’s plan would also allow low-income students to receive Pell Grants, which are given by the government to students who come from low- and middle-income families to pay for college, in addition to the $50,000 credit. Bush has said, as president, he would like to reform the Pell Grant program to allow students to learn about their eligibility for the grant earlier. Bush said his plan would “ensure that repayment is predictable and affordable, protects students during periods of unemployment or underemployment and eliminates defaults.” The plan would include a database from which students could track student outcomes from each college or university, including graduation rates, debt repayment rates and college earnings. The plan would also allow current college debt holders to transfer into the new system and would allow private student debt to be discharged in bankruptcy.