What Bernie Sanders running for president could mean for your student loans

If Bernie Sanders runs for president in 2024, here’s what it could mean for your student loans.

Here’s what you need to know.

Student loans

If President Joe Biden doesn’t run for office in 2024, there’s fresh speculation that Sanders (I-VT) could launch his third presidential campaign. Sanders, who finished second in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, has been a powerful and progressive voice for student loan forgiveness. If Sanders wins, here’s how he could impact student loans:

1. Sanders could sign an executive order to enact large-scale student loan forgiveness

Biden canceled $17 billion in student loans, but did not enact a large-scale student loan forgiveness. If Sanders becomes president, Sanders could seek to sign an executive order to enact large-scale student loan forgiveness. Sanders has long supported the full cancellation of all student loan debt, including private and federal student loans. In contrast, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have proposed legislation to forgive only federal student loans. Like Warren and Schumer, Sanders believes that the Higher Education Act of 1964 grants the president the legal power to cancel student loans without further congressional approval. Biden has primarily focused on canceling student loans for specific student borrowers, including a major announcement last week. (Student Loan Forgiveness: 5 Key Takeaways from a Major Announcement).


2. Sanders could push Congress to cancel student loans this way

As president, Sanders would no longer be a US senator. However, he would likely try to encourage Democrats in Congress (if Democrats still control both chambers) to use fiscal reconciliation to cancel student loans. Sanders understands that Congress is unlikely to pass legislation on large-scale student loan forgiveness, which would be major legislation that would require a 60-vote supermajority in the U.S. Senate. However, Sanders supports the use of a legislative tool known as budget reconciliation, which requires a simple majority (51 votes), which is a lower threshold than for major legislation. In practical terms, this means that instead of Democrats needing Republican support to get 60 votes in the US Senate, for example, Democrats could pass large-scale student loan cancellation without Republican support. Budget reconciliation, which is not subject to filibuster, is limited to policies that alter expenditures or revenues.


3. Sanders could “forgive student loans” to future student borrowers

The current proposals for student loan cancellation are for the one-time cancellation of a student loan. This means that only current student borrowers would benefit. That said, Sanders could seek to use executive orders to cancel student loans for future student borrowers. Alternatively, Sanders would seek to “forgive student loans” to borrowers before they borrow them. How? Sanders is a strong supporter of free college. If two- and four-year community colleges are free, student borrowers would not need to borrow student loans to attend college. However, Sanders would need congressional support to implement a tuition-free college plan. States would need federal grants to make their respective state colleges and universities as well as community colleges tuition-free.


Student Loans: Additional Considerations

Crucially, Sanders has not announced his intention to run for president. Biden has said he plans to run for re-election, which could mean Sanders is unlikely to challenge Biden. Even if Sanders runs for president, there is no guarantee that Sanders can legally cancel student loans for all student borrowers without further authorization from Congress. There is also no guarantee that Democrats will control Congress in 2024. Even if Democrats retain a majority in Congress, Democratic leaders may choose not to use fiscal reconciliation to include student loan cancellation. For example, Democrats control the United States House and the United States Senate. However, Schumer did not use fiscal reconciliation to enact large-scale student loan forgiveness. That said, as president, Sanders would prioritize student loan forgiveness and student loan relief.

One thing Sanders alone cannot change is restarting student loan repayments. With temporary student loan relief ending soon, your best strategy is to pay off student loans faster and get yourself out of student loan debt. Here are some popular ways borrowers use to win student loans:

Student Loans: Related Reading

Student loan forgiveness: 5 key takeaways from a major announcement

Biden to cancel student loans or extend student loan pause by August 31

Here’s who won’t qualify for $6.2 billion in student loan forgiveness

Student loan cancellation and student loan payment suspension are confusing. Here’s what you need to know.

About Judith J. George

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