Although student loan debt hasn’t been at the forefront of the presidential debates, a Biden presidency could mean big changes for your student loans. His proposed policies include revising current income-driven repayment plans, increasing the value of Pell Grants, providing reduced or free tuition costs and increasing student loan forgiveness opportunities.
Here’s who should be paying attention to the proposed plans, how they compare to President Trump’s proposals and what it could mean for your student loan debt.
Revised income-driven repayment plans
If you currently have or are expecting to have undergraduate student loan debt, the proposals about a new income-driven repayment plan made by the Biden team are likely to impact you, says Steve Muszynski, founder and CEO of Splash Financial. Here’s what Biden has in mind for the new income-driven repayment plan:
- Anyone who makes more than $25,000 will pay 5 percent of their discretionary income. After 20 years of making responsible payments, the loans would be 100 percent forgiven.
- Anyone who makes less than $25,000 would not owe any payments or interest on undergraduate federal student loans.
- Borrowers with existing or new student loan debt would be automatically enrolled in the income-based repayment plan, with the option to unenroll if they wished.
- Biden plans on changing the tax code so that forgiven debt through the income-driven repayment plan wouldn’t be taxed.
- Only undergraduate students would qualify for the revised payment plan.
In contrast, President Trump has proposed consolidating the four existing income-driven repayment plans into a singular one, with each payment based off of 12.5 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income. He also wants to make one plan that would allow borrowers with student loan debt to be forgiven after 15 years for undergraduate loans and 30 years for graduate loans.
Currently, income-driven repayment plans are based on 10 to 20 percent of your discretionary income, with forgiveness after 20 to 25 years.
Free or reduced college tuition
Here’s what could happen to your college tuition if Biden is elected:
- If you or your family makes less than $125,000 annually, tuition at a public university or college would be free for four years.
- If you attend a community college, your first two years would be tuition-free.
- This plan would be a federal-state partnership, with 75 percent of the cost going to the federal government. The states would contribute to the remaining balance.
Trump does not appear to have a plan to eliminate or alleviate the cost of tuition.
Muszynski says that it’s “highly unlikely” that we’ll see mass student loan forgiveness under a Biden presidency. Because Biden is more on the moderate side, any forgiveness would be staged and would be for the people who need it the most.
- If you participate in national or community service, Biden has proposed a program that would elevate $10,000 from your student loan debt each year you participate for up to five years. If you work in a school, hold a government job or work in the nonprofit sector, this proposal would automatically be applied to your debt.
- Biden’s plans include allowing student loan borrowers to discharge their loan debt after declaring bankruptcy.
Trump’s 2021 budget proposes getting rid of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which offered a cancellation of student loan debt after 120 payments for those who work for nonprofits, in public service and for the government, but which has been criticized for its complexity.
Pell Grant increase
“[With a Biden presidency,] you would see a focus on reduced cost of education, and you would see that through an increase in government funding through Pell Grants,” says Muszynski. Biden’s Pell Grant proposals are aimed at reducing the amount of debt students leave school with.
- Biden plans on doubling the value of Pell Grants.
- He wants to allow Pell Grant participants, those with state aid and those with other types of aid to use the funds toward education costs beyond tuition.
Trump’s plan for Pell Grants includes an expansion of eligibility requirements – extending eligibility to students in short-term programs and incarcerated students.
The bottom line
Your student loan debt has the potential to look different under a Biden presidency. However, keep in mind that these are just proposals — they are not guaranteed. For now, you can take advantage of the extended federal student loan forbearance period until Dec. 31, 2020, and any possible extensions of student loan relief.