Does My Vote Impact Student Loans? These 2018 Candidates Want To Change Higher Ed

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For most of us, the extent of our knowledge about the economy comes from how it directly affects our lives. The job market! Retirement accounts! Property values! And, of course, student loans! If student loan reform is an issue dear to your heart, there’s definitely something you can do about it: Vote.

While you can’t vote directly for student loan reform, it's a huge policy platform for some candidates who you can vote for. The biggest questions are how feasible their plans are and where the money to pay off all those loans would come from.

It depends on the plan, but one big strategy that some candidates have pushed involves creating initiatives like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). If you’re employed by any kind of government organization, a tax-exempt non-profit, or a non-profit that isn’t tax-exempt but does provide specific kinds of public services, you can apply to have your student loans forgiven under PSLF. You do have to make 120 monthly payments first, however.

Another strategy that some candidates have cited is Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) 2014 plan to tax millionaires and use that money to help people refinance their student loans. Refinancing a loan means taking out another loan with a better interest rate to pay off the first loan. Under Warren’s plan, the extra revenue from raising taxes on high earners would help cover the cost of that change. Warren’s plan never made it out of Congress, but student loan reform continues to be a huge subject of discussion.

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Which candidates support student loan reform?

There are a number of candidates who support student loan reform. In fact, there are a number of candidates who know exactly what you’re going through, because they have student debt as well. You can find a candidate in your area whose proposal to reform student loans sounds like it might be effective and cast your ballot for them.

If you’re looking for a candidate in your district, use a tool like VOTE411.org to find out what offices and candidates you’ll be voting on in November.

Here’s a list of some of the candidates you may encounter who have taken a position on the subject. A few Democrats have called for loan forgiveness across the board, while others are looking to help students refinance their loans and increase transparency from lenders. A couple Republicans have also expressed an interest in making college more affordable. If you don’t know where your local officials or candidates stand on student loan reform, call or write to them and ask.

Democrats

  • Jimmy Gomez, a Democratic member of the House running for re-election in California’s 34th district, supports debt-free education at public colleges.
  • Conor Lamb, a Democratic member of the House running for re-election in Pennsylvania’s 17th district, supports programs that allow people to refinance their loans and help public service employees pay back their loans.
  • Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator running for re-election in Missouri, has co-sponsored legislation to let people with student loans “refinance their student loan debt at lower interest rates.”
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic candidate running in New York’s 14th district, has proposed the cancellation of all student debt.
  • Ilhan Omar, a Democratic candidate running to represent Minnesota’s 5th district, wants to cancel all existing student debt and “guarantee tuition-free and debt-free two- and four-year public colleges and universities.”
  • Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democratic candidate running in Pennsylvania’s 5th district, supports student loan reform and says on her website: “We must lower student loan interest rates, reinstate measures to crack down on predatory lending and debt collection that the Trump administration has undermined, and provide relief to graduates with crippling debt.”
  • Eric Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House running for re-election in California’s 15th district, calls student debt a "crushing burden." He’s introduced or co-sponsored a number of bills to increase transparency around student loans.

Republicans

  • Dan Donovan, a Republican member of the House running for re-election in New York's 11th district, said he paid off his last student loan at age 52 and writes on his website that he wants to "streamline and improve student aid, and protect the 529 plan that helps parents save for their child’s higher education."
  • Jay Webber, a Republican candidate running to represent New Jersey's 11th district, writes that he has "proposed innovative ways to make college more affordable to students and their families, by allowing them to finance their educations in way that will minimize student-loan debt (and control ever-rising tuition rates too!)"