As Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary approaches, Democratic candidates agree that earning a degree or training after high school should be more affordable and that Americans need help getting out of student loan debt.
But the candidates have different plans on how to get there.
Here are the plans of the 11 active Democratic presidential candidates on how they would make higher education more affordable:
Community college is at the center of the former vice president’s vision for higher education. He proposes covering tuition at two-year programs with a mix of federal and state grants, with additional money to help community colleges support students and retain teachers, and $8 billion in campus capital improvements.
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On student debt, Biden proposes various repayment assistance programs, including $10,000 of loan forgiveness annually for every year of qualifying public service employment. He also wants to double the maximum level of Pell Grants, put $50 billion into workforce training programs; and invest $70.5 billion in the coming years in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions. Biden proposes paying for these programs by capping itemized deductions on wealthy Americans to 28 percent and eliminating the stepped-up basis loophole. Read Biden’s plan
The Vermont senator wants to cancel all existing student debt, use federal grants to cover tuition at all public post-secondary programs, cap student loan interest rates below 2 percent, and invest another $1.3 billion in HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. Sanders already introduced the College for All Act in 2017 would eliminate tuition for “students at community colleges and two-year tribal colleges and universities.” His education platform also proposes increased assistance for non-tuition costs of attending school (like food and books) and for the Work-Study Program, a federal program that provides students with part-time jobs. Sanders proposes instituting a series of taxes on stock trades to cover the costs of these programs. Read Sanders’ plan
The Massachusetts senator proposes broad student debt cancellation, government grants for tuition at 2- and 4-year colleges, increased investment in HBCUs, and expanding the funding and eligibility requirements for Pell Grants. Her tiered student debt cancellation would eliminate up to $50,000 in federal student debt for households making less than $100,000 a year, and a slice of debt for families making between $100,000 and $250,000. She is a co-sponsor of Sanders' College for All Act. Her other policies include mandatory annual audits of college graduation rates to identify uneven program completion rates between white and minority students, and phasing in a ban on for-profit colleges receiving any form of federal funding. The senator proposes funding all of her education plans with a 2 percent annual tax on families whose wealth tops $50 million. Read Warren’s plan
The former New York mayor proposes boosting support for community and technical colleges, and workforce training like apprenticeship and internships through expanded federal grants. Bloomberg proposes innovation grants for employers that create programs to support adult and part-time students, letting adults seeking short-term training and people in prison to use Pell Grants, and allowing individuals collecting unemployment insurance to have their benefits extended if they participate in specified training programs. Read Bloomberg’s economy vision, which touches on his education plan
The former South Bend mayor supports making tuition more affordable by providing tuition subsidies for families earning up to $150,000, increasing the max Pell Grant by $1,000, and investing $50 billion over the next 10 years in HBCUs. He also proposes the federal government complete FAFSA forms for families and automatically notify high school freshman of their Pell Grant eligibility. Buttigieg supports forgiving student debt incurred at predatory for-profit colleges and for people who complete 10 years of public service, and establishing income-based payment plans for people who fall behind on their loans. His other policy proposals include: investing $1 billion in community colleges, creating a $2 billion program for food vouchers for community college students, and putting $100 million a year in developing regional, public-private workforce partnerships. Read Buttigieg’s plan
The New York entrepreneur supports free or drastically-reduced community college tuition, (though he has not laid out how that would be achieved); reducing the student-to-administrator ratio at public universities; and tying future tuition increases to the rate of annual median wage growth. Yang’s wants the federal government to purchase all loan debt and, if students repay 10 percent of their salary for 10 years, forgive any remaining debt. His student loan platform also includes making such debts forgivable if people declare bankruptcy, and establishing forgiveness programs for graduates who work in rural areas or with underprivileged populations. The New York entrepreneur also supports increased advertising and funding for vocational program billions of dollars in new investments at HBCUs. Read Yang’s plan
The Minnesota senator supports federal and state grants to cover tuition at one- and two-year programs, technical certifications, and industry-recognized credentials. She is the lead sponsor on the American Apprenticeship Act, which would create grants for states to help offset tuition for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and supports creating 529 savings accounts at the federal level. Such accounts let people save and spend pre-tax money for education expenses. She also proposes doubling the maximum amount offered through Pell Grants; supporting states in creating microgrants to help students with unexpected, non-tuition education expenses; permitting borrowers to refinance student loans; and creating tax credits for employers that provide workforce training. She doesn’t go as far as some of her fellow candidates in proposing across-the-board student loan forgiveness, but Klobuchar proposes reforming the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to clarify eligibility, expanding that program to apply to workers in in-demand jobs, and forgiving any of their remaining debt after 10 years of payments tied to income levels. Read Klobuchar’s plan
The New York hedge fund manager and philanthropist supports free tuition for education programs beyond high school, reforming the Public Service Student Loan program, tightening regulations on predatory student loan providers, and tying expanding national service programs to educational benefits. He also supports investing $125 billion in HBCUs and leading efforts to reform their governance infrastructure. Read Steyer’s plan
The Hawaiian representative supports lowering the cost of post-secondary programs and reforming student loan regulations. She is a co-sponsor of the house version of the College for All Act, which would establish a federal grant program to cover tuition and fees at community colleges and two-year programs. The first female combat veteran to run for president is also the co-sponsor of the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2015, which would allow student loan debt to be discharged through bankruptcy, and supports capping student loan interest rates. Read Gabbard’s plan
The Colorado senator supports providing tuition-free community college through a combination of state and federal grants. His platform includes expanding Pell Grants to help students graduate college with less debt, increasing investment in career and technical training, capping student loan payments at 8 percent of income and forgiving the debt after 20 years. He also supports debt forgiveness programs for public service or working in high-demand jobs, student loan refinancing and allowing student loans to be discharged when bankruptcy is declared, and simplifying the financial aid process. Read Bennet’s plan
Patrick has not rolled out an education agenda, but as Massachusetts’ governor he supported making community college free for state residents. Patrick will not appear on Michigan’s ballot due to faulty signatures. Read Patrick’s plan
Note: Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Joe Sestak, Marianne Williamson and John Delaney will also appear on Michigan’s Democratic primary ballot but have dropped out of the presidential race.