Presidential candidates express views on student loans

Student Writer Laura Wood

Election season is upon us. As students prepare to vote, federal student loans remain a top concern.

Each candidate offers a plan to make college more affordable.

Over the last 15 years, student loan debt reached over $1.2 trillion, said Political Science Professor Tim Collins.

“The idea (of student loans) was that you take the money, improve your skills and get a better job, and with higher income, you can pay off loans,” Collins said. “That’s good debt. But if you don’t get the better job, and you don’t have the capacity to pay off the loans, it’s not good debt.”

However, a president cannot eliminate student loan debt without legislative support, Collins said.

The four candidates on the presidential ballot— Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein —recognize the need to create more jobs and help students eliminate debt.

“I want someone who understands me,” said junior Rosie McClendon. “I work a minimum-wage job trying to make ends meet while attending school.”

Clinton’s plan to create tuition-free colleges and reduce student loan debt includes restructuring payment plans for student loans and creating an income-based repayment method so no one will have to pay more than 10 percent of their monthly income, according to her website.

Clinton’s plan will be paid for by reducing tax exemptions for high income tax payers. This extra revenue would go toward college education, according to her site.

Clinton also believes “states will have to step up and invest in higher education,” according to her site.

Although the plan sounds great, Political Science Professor Leah Graham doubts states will contribute more to higher education, she said in an email.

“States have been systematically cutting their investment in higher education —one of the causes for tuition hikes across the country— and I don’t see them reversing that decision much less going the other direction, no matter how much that investment might provide long term gains in terms of human capital, entrepreneurship and overall future economic growth,” she said.

To eliminate student loan debt, Stein favors a “student-bailout” plan, in which the Federal Reserve would cancel the debt, according to

Stein’s “student-bailout” plan also includes tuition-free public education for college students, according to

Stein supports abolishing “student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude (and) guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university,” according to

Freshman Kiley Hansford said he wants a conservative candidate and believes better jobs would allow students to pay off debt.

Trump plans to cut government spending on the Department of Education and eliminate interest rates on student loans.

Cutting government spending on the Department of Education would mean states held more power over education, according to

“These student loans are probably one of the only things that the government shouldn’t make money from, and yet it does,” Trump said, according to

Universities need to work to reduce the cost of a higher education, according to Trump’s website.

Trump plans to, “work with Congress on reforms to ensure universities are making a good faith effort to reduce the cost of college and student debt in exchange for the federal tax breaks and tax dollars,” according to the site.

Like Trump, former Governor Gary Johnson also plans to cut federal aid for the Department of Education.

But cutting or eliminating the Department of Education might not have as big of an impact on students as they might think, Graham said.

“Most of educational policy that touches students personally is conducted at the state and local level,” Graham said. “Most of the public doesn’t understand this point, so candidates can easily point to the DOE as a boogeyman for all that ails them.

“What we stand to lose in reducing funding for the Department of Education is capacity in professionalization of educators, simple regulatory mechanisms and accountability.”

On his campaign website, Johnson said he would eliminate federal student loans.

“I’m a believer in free markets,” Johnson said, according to “I suggest that if student loans did not exist—and I am not advocating that— tuition would be a lot lower because colleges and universities want to deliver their product, and if there weren’t as many kids going to school because it costs too much, they would find ways to lower their price.”

Students should consider seriously who they want to vote for and do plenty of research, Collins said.

“Figure out what is good for you personally, and then ask yourself, ‘What is good for the country as a whole?’ If those two things do not coincide, then figure out what is best for the country. That’s asking for a lot of civic virtue, but it’s the best thing we can hope for.”

Students should keep candidates’ views in perspective, Graham said.

“I’d like for (students) to remember that campaigns are theater, and they run on sound byte,” she said. “Reality of governance is far more complex than the picture you get from a candidate running for any office.

“So get past the talking points, look up who actually contributes to policies that do or will impact you and be realistic about what a president can influence and their much bigger unrealistic promises of campaigning.”

Students can find reliable information about each candidate’s positions on several websites including, and