GOP presidential candidates agree: Student loan borrowers shouldn’t get forgiveness

Personal finance

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy pose together onstage at the third Republican candidates’ U.S. presidential debate of the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, U.S., November 8, 2023. 
Mike Segar | Reuters

Now that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has exited the 2024 Republican primary race, five major candidates remain ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Monday: Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley and Asa Hutchinson.

One thing those lasting opponents agree on: student loan borrowers shouldn’t get forgiveness.

In the general presidential election, the eventual winner of the Republican nomination will compete against a staunch advocate for the cancelation of education debt.

President Joe Biden is still trying to figure out a way to forgive millions of borrowers’ debt after the Supreme Court struck down his $400 billion relief plan in June. The Biden administration has also been able to wipe out nearly $132 billion of student debt for more than 3 million people using existing authority.

Outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. exceeds $1.6 trillion, and burdens Americans more than credit card or auto loan debt. The average loan balance at graduation has tripled since the 1990s to $30,000 from $10,000. Additionally, about 7% of student loan borrowers are now more than $100,000 in debt.

Voters support forgiving at least some student loan debt by a 2-to-1 margin, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll. Less than a third oppose the policy.

Here’s what the GOP presidential contenders say about student debt forgiveness.

Donald Trump

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigns in Mason City, Iowa, U.S. January 5, 2024. 
Rachel Mummey | Reuters

Former President Donald Trump has a long record of opposing debt cancelation. Trump also sided with the Supreme Court in its ruling striking down Biden’s plan.

“Today, the Supreme Court also ruled that President Biden cannot wipe out hundreds of billions, perhaps trillions of dollars, in student loan debt, which would have been very unfair to the millions and millions of people who paid their debt through hard work and diligence; very unfair,” Trump said at a campaign event in June 2023.

Ron DeSantis

The Florida governor has said that it’s wrong to saddle taxpayers with the expense of student loan forgiveness.

“Why should a truck driver have to pay for somebody that got a degree in zombie studies?” DeSantis said at an Iowa event last August. “It doesn’t make sense.”

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Vivek Ramaswamy

In a written statement to CNBC last summer, the tech entrepreneur said America had a bad habit “of paying people to do the exact opposite of what we want them to do: More [dollars] to stay at home than to work, more [dollars] to be a single mother than married, more [dollars] for those who fail to repay loans than those who do.”

Ramaswamy added that the Supreme Court’s ruling to block forgiveness “helps reverse that trend.”

Nikki Haley

The former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump tweeted last June that “a president cannot just wave his hand and eliminate loans for students he favors, while leaving out all those who worked hard to pay back their loans or made other career choices.”

“The Supreme Court was right to throw out Joe Biden’s power grab,” Haley wrote.

Asa Hutchinson

A former governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, called Biden’s broad forgiveness plan “a misuse of executive authority,” in a 2022 statement.

“Shifting the burden from those who willingly took out a loan to all taxpayers is inconsistent with the American ideal of personal responsibility,” Hutchinson said.

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