Brooklyn Draisey, Iowa Capital Dispatch
All of the Republicans running for president in 2024 oppose President Joe Biden’s efforts to forgive college debt. Some — but not all — of them have offered their own ideas to make higher education more affordable.
The pause on student loan repayments that began during the COVID-19 pandemic ended this October, impacting tens of millions of borrowers across the U.S.
Biden’s plan to cancel up to $10,000 in debt for 40 million qualified borrowers was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. The White House has since pivoted to income-driven repayment plans that forgives balances after a certain number of years. About 4 million Americans, including 40,000 Iowans, are enrolled.
The Republicans running for president generally celebrated the Supreme Court ruling, calling the plan an overreach of executive power. They’ve criticized the idea of loan forgiveness, which some have said would put undue burdens on those without student loans and exacerbate inflation.
Some candidates have suggested alternatives to forgiving loans, like curbing interest rates or tailoring them to a borrower’s income. Others have called for more transparency and accountability for the colleges students are taking loans out to attend.
Here are each of the candidates’ stances on combating student debt:
Former President Donald Trump celebrated Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan being struck down this summer, calling it “very unfair” to those who had already paid off their loans.
“Today, the Supreme Court also ruled that President Biden is not allowed to wipe out hundreds of billions and perhaps trillions of dollars in student loan debt, which would have been very unfair to the millions and millions of people who paid their debt through hard work and diligence,” Trump said at a June Moms for Liberty event.
During his presidency, Trump proposed a 2021 budget that would end subsidized loans, reduce the number of loan repayment plans and end the public service loan forgiveness program.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses student loan debt in his “declaration of economic independence,” calling for universities to be responsible for their students’ debt and for loans to be discharged through bankruptcy.
In a July campaign event, DeSantis said universities offering students degrees in areas that won’t make them successful, citing the example of zombie studies, are able to rake in cash while students rack up debt that they won’t be able to pay off. Putting colleges on the hook for debt students can’t repay will incentivize the institutions to more career-driven coursework, rather than ideological studies, according to his campaign.
“We need to do things to make it better for our students, to be able to have pathways for success but it starts with holding these universities accountable,” DeSantis said.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley praised the Supreme Court for striking down Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling it a “power grab.”
“A president cannot just wave his hand and eliminate loans for students he favors, while leaving out all those who worked hard to pay back their loans or made other career choices,” she said.
In a May interview with New Hampshire news station WMUR, Haley suggested halting accruing interest on loans until a student has finished their schooling, rather than allowing interest to pile onto loans as soon as it is dispersed to the school. This will give students a better chance of paying off their loans once they’ve graduated, she said.
In an interview with the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Texas businessman and pastor Ryan Binkley said programs like income-driven loan repayment plans and interest waivers would offer aid to those in need while not impacting inflation, unlike loan forgiveness.
“I’m not for just a blanket forgiveness of debt, because really what that does is that’s just going to increase the inflation going on and on because what we have to do is borrow money from ourselves and print money in order to do that,” Binkley said. “So all that does is exacerbate the long term problem for the next year’s students and thereafter because it doesn’t really address the issue.”
It’s also important to direct those looking for post-secondary education to alternative pathways, like vocational schools and community colleges, he said, as they are more affordable and give students training for in-demand careers.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has called Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan a “regressive scam” on social media, and said student loan forgiveness would force all Americans to pay for four-year degrees obtained by about one-third of the population, some being “anti-American” gender studies majors.
After Biden’s plan was struck down by the Supreme Court, Ramaswamy said the U.S. has made a habit of paying people to do the opposite of what they should, including paying people more to not pay their student loans instead of rewarding those who have paid theirs off. The court’s decision reversed this trend and set a precedent that he hopes to expand to other areas of the government.
“That’s not America,” he said in a June statement. “America is a country where you achieve and get ahead based on your own hard work and commitment and dedication, we’re not going to pay you to do the other thing.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in June introduced a package of five bills aimed at decreasing the expenses of seeking higher education, called the Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act, alongside Sen. Chuck Grassley and other lawmakers.
The legislation went against Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, which he said would force “hard working Americans to shoulder debt they never signed up for.”
It included standardizing student aid offers across colleges and universities, providing more transparency for families about costs, simplifying repayment plans and guiding students away from borrowing money for programs that won’t lead them to high-paying careers.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement last year that forgiving student loans is a misuse of executive authority, and Americans who didn’t take out student loans due to attending a lower-cost school or entering the workforce would be discouraged by those efforts.
“If President Biden wanted to provide relief to Americans with student loan debts, he could work to permanently lower interest rates instead of across-the-board forgiveness,” he said in the statement. “‘Forgiving’ student loan debts will reward high-cost schools and add to the inflated cost of higher education.”
He reiterated his belief in curbing interest rates on X earlier this month, calling for Congress to cap interest rates to help borrowers while not punishing taxpayers.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, in a July video, likened canceling half a trillion dollars in student debt to printing out half a trillion dollars and introducing it to the economy, calling Biden’s plan “super inflationary” and a “political payoff.”
Blue-collar kids who went to trade school would be subsidizing kids who went to college and took out loans with student loan forgiveness, he said.
“America’s about if you borrow money, you pay it back,” he said.
Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.