With the sheer number of voters now impacted by student debt—40 million, representing $1.3 trillion in outstanding loans—it’s easy to see why it has emerged as a primary campaign issue after decades of registering fleeting mentions.
Though student debt impacts every generation, it’s regarded as the primary “pocketbook” issue for Millennials. Individuals in this age group represent roughly 25 percent of the voter pool. This demographic’s absence at the polls during the midterm elections—and their critical role in the previous two presidential elections—makes attracting their support every candidate’s goal.
Student debt’s influence.
Student debt has surpassed credit card debt for the number two position of indebtedness (behind mortgages) in American households. Mortgage debt accounts for 70% of all household debt, and student loans now account for roughly 10%, surpassing credit card (6%) and car loans (8%). A policy change in how student debt is repaid would have significant ramifications.
With 20+ candidates vying for the presidency, there are currently 20+ perspectives on how to deal with student debt vying for voter attention. Although, for the Democrats, the notion of some form of debt-free college has emerged.
Among the Republican candidates, the proposals vary from more support for online education programs to help reduce the time—and, therefore, expense—associated with getting a degree for future students to allowing students to “sell” investors a percentage of their future income in exchange for tuition funding.
Other proposals include:
- Targeting costs at schools.
- Better integration between learning and working through employer-sponsored programs.
- The ability to refinance private and federal loans at lower interest rates.
- Reintroducing the notion of competition among lenders to drive borrowing costs down.
- Expanding forgiveness programs.
- Making tuition a deductible expense spread out over the course of your working career.
Relief is likely.
As an issue that impacts so many and cuts across generations and even household income brackets, student debt relief in some form is expected to result from the ongoing public discussion.
While the nature of that relief is being debated, you can still seek some of your own. Our member agencies will help you figure out what you may be able to do today to get some measure of debt relief based your personal financial circumstances.