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Plans to Tackle Student Loan Debt in 2020

Plans to Tackle Student Loan Debt in 2020
Susan Dutca-Lovell

If there is one thing upon which 2020 Presidential candidates and government officials agree, it is that something must be done to resolve the issue of college student debt, which has now outpaced credit card and auto debt. More than fifty percent of Americans believe that college student debt is "a major problem", with the average college student currently graduating with $30,000 in student loan debt. Some of the proposed college debt plans - such as student loan forgiveness plans - would leave students debt-free, while others would offer new repayment and refinancing options. Here are some of the major changes that could take place in the near future:

U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants to get the Education Department out of the student lending business by having federal student loans managed by a standalone entity that is separate and independent from the Education Department, such as the Federal Student Aid (FSA). The FSA is the nation’s largest provider of financial aid and could better manage and administer student loans, according to DeVos.

The Department of Education also wishes to simplify student loan repayment as there are currently 8 different repayment plans (4 of which are income-driven and each with different eligibility requirements); more than 30 variations of deferment and forbearance options; 14 forgiveness options, and 11 different servicers. The Trump administration proposed combining the existing student loan repayment plans into a single, simpler repayment plan to help borrowers pay off their student loans faster. Under this new income-based repayment plan, there would be a monthly student loan payment cap at 12.5% discretionary income, forgiving the remaining balance after 15 years.

The government may also offer income-sharing agreements where, unlike with a traditional loan, the borrower does not pay anything back until they secure a job following graduation. Once they land a job, they are responsible for a certain percentage of their income for a set period of years. As opposed to traditional loan payments - which are driven by principal and interest – income-share agreement payments are driven by income and time. If borrowers earn more, they pay more; if they make less, they pay less. Several institutions currently offer income-share agreements, including Purdue University, the University of California at San Diego, Clarkson University, Messiah College and the University of Utah.

Student Loan Forgiveness Proposals

At the forefront of eradicating college student loan debt is Senator Bernie Sanders, who proposes erasing the country's $1.6 trillion outstanding college student debt. "The College for All Act" would forgive all 45 million Americans with outstanding balances from their college student debt and would be funded by the proposed new tax on Wall Street transactions - including a 0.5 percent tax on stock transactions and a 0.1 percent tax on bonds. Sanders' plan would also make trade schools and apprenticeship programs, two- and four-year public colleges and universities tuition- and debt-free. Less radical Is Senator Elizabeth Warren's plan, which caps college debt at $50,000 and offers no relief to borrowers who earn more than $250,000. People who earn less than $100,000 would get $50,000 of their student debt forgiven while people who earn between $100,000 and $250,000 would be eligible for forgiveness on a sliding scale - $50,000 in debt relief drops by $1 for every $3 a person earns over $100,000.

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