Center for American Progress

RELEASE: How To Address the $1.5 Trillion in Current Student Loan Debt
Press Release

RELEASE: How To Address the $1.5 Trillion in Current Student Loan Debt

Washington, D.C. — As college costs skyrocket and student loan debt tops $1.5 trillion, college affordability has become a hot-button issue nationwide, prompting policymakers and candidates alike to consider ways to address the growing affordability gap. But along with tackling affordability for tomorrow’s students, any comprehensive proposal must also include solutions for the 43 million Americans who currently carry student loan debt.

Today, the Center for American Progress and Generation Progress released a new report laying out a menu of six policy options for addressing the issues that current student loan borrowers face, as well as examining the trade-offs and targeting of each policy. These solutions are meant to be independent of broader reforms and presumes keeping and preserving key existing benefits, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

“Not all student loan debt is created—nor distributed—equally,” said Ben Miller, vice president for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the report. “There’s no single path to debt relief for all borrowers, so policymakers would do well to consider a range of options at various levels of cost and complexity. The only nonnegotiable here is that all options must be guided by equity, simplicity, and providing meaningful relief.”

Overall, the report considers six options to tackle student debt:

  1. Forgive all student loans
  2. Forgive up to a set dollar amount for all borrowers
  3. Forgive debt held by former Pell recipients
  4. Reform repayment options to tackle excessive interest growth and provide quicker paths to forgiveness
  5. Change repayment options to provide more regular forgiveness
  6. Allow student loan refinancing

Each of the six options are further analyzed using four factors: equity, simplicity, striving for broad impact, and providing a sense of meaningful relief.

As presidential hopefuls begin to map out their policy proposals for higher education, student loan debt has emerged as a key issue for voters. However, by and large, the question of what to do with the more than $1.5 trillion in existing loans remains an oft-overlooked piece of the puzzle.

“One-third of all adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have a student loan,” said Brent J. Cohen, executive director of Generation Progress and co-author of the report. “Candidates and policymakers must show that they are serious about addressing this issue, which touches such a significant portion of the electorate. Otherwise, they will lose an incredible opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of millions of Americans, and risk alienating voters.”

This report offers candidates, policymakers, and the public a roadmap to making the most informed decision about which policy best supports their goals—while not forgetting those already being crushed by debt. It does not endorse one proposal over another.

Click here to read the report: “Addressing the $1.5 Trillion in Federal Student Loan Debt” by Ben Miller, Colleen Campbell, Brent J. Cohen, and Charlotte Hancock.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Kyle Epstein at [email protected] or 202-481-8137.