Close to all Senate Democrats running for president in 2020 have embraced a massive overhaul of how students pay for college.
Four of the six senators in the Popular primary co-sponsored legislation aiming to make public college debt-free, which Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, announced Wednesday. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts participate in all backed the plan. While Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent running for president as a Democrat, was not among the initial co-sponsors, he has put forth his own aim to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.
Only one senator in the race has not endorsed either the Schatz or Sanders proffers: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. It fits with the Midwestern Democrat’s strategy of casting herself as a more middle-of-the-road alternative to her mates.
With the exception of former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet entered the race, the candidates near the top of early Democratic drill polls have generally been senators.
The Schatz plan, first proposed last year, would set apart participating states to receive federal money matching the amount they give to state colleges. To get those endowments, they would have to commit to helping students cover the full cost of attendance — not just tuition — without entrancing on debt.
In putting the bill forward, Schatz said, “We need to focus on the real cost to students and their lines” if “we are going to be serious about solving the student loan debt crisis.” The proposal comes as some lawmakers and activists notice to address the mounting student debt crisis. It does not offer a cost estimate.
The U.S. student debt burden leading $1.5 trillion by the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Federal Reserve. Research has found the mountain of encumbrance under obligation has affected other parts of the economy, including homeownership.
The Democratic primary will in part be defined by how far candidates deficiency to move toward solving problems, and how quickly. Fault lines have already emerged on issues from disciple loans to health care.
Klobuchar, considered one of the more centrist candidates in the race, has embraced what she considers a multitudinous pragmatic solution. Asked last month about the Sanders plan, Klobuchar said, “I am not for free four-year college for all.”
She distressed about the cost of such a plan — potentially tens of billions of dollars per year.
“I wish — if I was a magic genie and could send that to everyone and we could afford it, I would,” she said at a CNN town hall event.
Klobuchar has pushed for up to two years of relieve community college and the expansion of Pell Grants. She has also supported allowing borrowers to refinance student loans at drop rates and backed expanded tax credits for education after high school.
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