Basic Briefing

The Student Loans Debate

The debate on student finance focuses on how students should pay for their post-secondary education. Who should be eligible for Pell grants? Should the government have loan-forgiveness programs? Should students pay the market interest rate for loans? How can post-secondary options become more affordable?

Official Democratic position

The Democratic Party believes that “Cost should not be a barrier to getting a degree or credential, and debt should not hold you back after you graduate”. The Party supports making community college free, refinancing loans for those already with student debt at the lowest interest rates possible, and the continuation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and loan discharge programs developed by the Obama Administration.

Official Republican position

The Republican Party supports “…higher education programs that are directly related to job opportunities.” The Party believes “… efforts should be taken to provide families with greater transparency and the information they need to make prudent choices about a student’s future…” The Party opposes government-granted student loans. However, it supports the government serving as an insurance guarantor.

Institutional framework

The Department of Education oversees federal student grants, loans, and work-study programs. Eligibility for most of these programs – including Pell Grants and Stafford Loans – are need-based, determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal loans typically have lower interest rates than private loans and some students are eligible for loan forgiveness programs.

The Federal Trade Commission regulates private student loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau investigates complaints about student loan practices.

Most Vocal on Student Loans

These are the candidates who focus on this issue the most, with the most liberal on this issue on the left and the most conservative on this issue on the right. Click on the circles to see more information.


Kathleen Dahlkemper |  | Crowdpac Al Franken | Candidate for U.S. Senate, 2020 Primary Election in Minnesota (MN) | Crowdpac Heidi Heitkamp | Candidate for U.S. Senate, 2018 Primary Election in North Dakota (ND) | Crowdpac Lindsey Graham | Candidate for U.S. Senate, 2020 Primary Election in South Carolina (SC) | Crowdpac Jack Reed | Candidate for U.S. Senate, 2020 Primary Election in Rhode Island (RI) | Crowdpac Joseph Sestak, Jr. |  | Crowdpac John Kline | 2nd Congressional District, 2014 in Minnesota (MN) | Crowdpac Chaka Fattah | 2nd Congressional District, 2014 in Pennsylvania (PA) | Crowdpac Matt Salmon | 5th Congressional District, 2014 in Arizona (AZ) | Crowdpac Ruben Hinojosa | 15th Congressional District, 2014 in Texas (TX) | Crowdpac

The Spectrum on Student Loans

These are the candidates who are most liberal, most conservative, and most moderate on this specific issue. Click on each candidate to see more information.

Relevant Committees