Personal finance

Here’s where the Republican presidential candidates stand on student loan forgiveness

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Republican presidential candidates (L-R): former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum are introduced during the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on Aug. 23, 2023 in Milwaukee.
Scott Olson | Getty Images

One year ago today, President Joe Biden announced his plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for tens of millions of Americans.

That proposal was hugely popular with borrowers, who saw it as a chance to alleviate at least of some of the debt they’ve complained is holding them back from moving ahead in life.

However, many Republicans— including the lineup of politicians seeking the 2024 GOP presidential candidate nomination — didn’t like the policy.

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In June, the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s plan, but the president is now attempting to cancel the debt a different way.

The nation’s student loan balance, which exceeds $1.7 trillion, is a bigger burden to Americans than credit card or auto 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.

On Wednesday night, during the first Republican presidential primary debate, the topic of student loan forgiveness didn’t come up, even as several of the candidates called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education.

But CNBC tracked down statements on the policy from the GOP contenders.

Donald Trump

Former president Donald Trump, who didn’t attend the debate Wednesday night, has a long record of opposing student loan forgiveness. Trump also sided with the Supreme Court.

“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.

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 in early August. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Vivek Ramaswamy

In a written statement to CNBC, the tech entrepreneur said we had a bad habit in America “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 also said that the Supreme Court’s ruling to block forgiveness “helps reverse that trend.”

Mike Pence

The former vice president also celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling, while taking some credit for it.

“I am pleased that the court struck down the Radical Left’s effort to use the money of taxpayers who played by the rules and repaid their debts in order to cancel the debt of bankers and lawyers in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.,” Pence said in a June statement.

He also said that he was “honored to have played a role in appointing three of the justices that ensured” the “welcomed decision.”

Nikki Haley

The former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump has tweeted 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.

Tim Scott

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina in June called Biden’s forgiveness policy “illegal and unconstitutional,” and said it “forces hardworking Americans to shoulder debt they never signed up for.”

Chris Christie

The former New Jersey governor has said that Biden doesn’t have the authority to cancel student debt without prior authorization from Congress.

“He knows he’s done something that is illegal and over the top,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week” last summer.

Christie also said the president’s policy, “does nothing to control college costs. The reason people have higher loans is because college is more expensive. This does not make college less expensive. It makes it more expensive, when you’re giving away things.”

Doug Burgum

The North Dakota governor was deeply critical of Biden’s forgiveness plan.

“This horribly misguided and incredibly unfair plan undermines a core American principle that individuals are responsible for paying off their own personal debts,” Burgum said in a statement in September 2022. “This federal action will not affect student loans held by the Bank of North Dakota, and we would strongly oppose any copycat legislation at the state level.”

Asa Hutchinson

Former governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, called Biden’s broad forgiveness plan “a misuse of executive authority,” in a statement last year.

“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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