On Tuesday, former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg announced his higher education plan ahead of his much-anticipated debate debut. After months of candidates wrestling with their own solutions to student debt and costly tuition, Bloomberg’s plan came prepared to challenge some of those points. He called for making community college free, lowering student loan payment minimums, increasing income-driven repayment plans, and increasing Pell Grants for low-income students.
Although Bloomberg’s proposed plan touches on many concerns around higher education that come up in debates, his positions fare quite differently from the progressive slate of candidates’ proposals: instead of cancelling most or all student debt, Bloomberg would forgive debt only for students who attended predatory for-profit colleges. Meanwhile, candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposals for expansive student loan forgiveness that would cost over $2 trillion if enacted.
Bloomberg does not specifically call for immediate erasure of student loan debt or making all public universities free like more progressive plans, though his proposals still look quite familiar — he mirrors points from the more centrist candidates’ plans: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former vice president Joe Biden, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. In fact, his free community college plan was originally proposed by President Barack Obama in 2015, a plan which both Klobuchar and Biden have also hoped to reenact with the free community college component.
Bloomberg also includes the expansion of Pell Grants, which would significantly help members of low-income households to seek higher education. Like him, Klobuchar and Buttigieg also centered their higher education plans around Pell Grant expansion to cover living expenses for low-income students. Both Bloomberg and Buttigieg have plans focused on Pell Grant expansion to make public universities more affordable (without making them free).
Another important proponent in his plan is a call to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which would help indebted professionals alleviate massive debts. Last week Donald Trump proposed cancelling this existing plan entirely in his new budget, but Biden and Klobuchar have also submitted solutions to this. Biden’s plan goes a bit further than even Bloomberg's to further on debt forgiveness, making it so borrowers making $25,000 or less don’t have to make payments on their loans.
Americans have a record-breaking $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, and for borrowers, it seems like their debt is never going away (especially when their debt won’t stop rising, whether or not they pay it). Student loan borrowers, at their wits’ end, are mobilizing to go on strike from their payments. There’s no doubt that student loan cancellation would dramatically change people’s lives.
According to Bloomberg’s press statement claims following his proposal, “[his] plan will make college fairer and more affordable.” Bloomberg’s appearance on the Las Vegas debate stage comes following a week of controversies, particularly around his campaign paying a company run by the same people who popularized Fyre Festival for influential meme accounts on Instagram to post about him. After taking a public jab at leading candidate Sanders, Bloomberg's week in the spotlight will surely be questioned at the ninth Democratic debate on Wednesday, February 19.