international students
Michael Bloomberg is taking a different approach to his challengers when it comes to higher education. Source: Jeff Kowalsky AFP

Student loan debt has become the focal point of discussion among the US democratic presidential candidates.

Both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders’ plans include cancelling student loan debt and making college free. 

But Michael Bloomberg has carved a different route from his challengers. 

Bloomberg’s proposal is a stark contrast to his contenders

Rather than make tuition free and cancelling the burgeoning student loan debt, the former mayor of New York’s higher education proposal includes doubling the size of Pell grants for low-income students and removing current barriers of access to Pell Grants for DREAMers and formerly incarcerated students.

His campaign page notes that Bloomberg will make community colleges free for all students, and public colleges “debt-free” for low-income students by covering the cost of tuition plus the cost of attending college, including food, books and transportation.

Tweaks to income-driven repayment programmes

Currently, students who have taken federal student loans must make an application if they want to repay their loans under an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.

Federal Student Aid notes that IDR plans are ideal if students’ federal student loan payments are high compared to their income.

But Bloomberg proposes that new and existing undergraduate student loan borrowers automatically be enrolled in IDR programmes, with repayment capped at five percent of discretionary income, down from the current 10 percent. 

Borrowers will be able to choose to repay through the paycheck withholding system used to collect payroll and income taxes. They can also opt out and enrol in another federal programme.

Undergraduate borrowers in IDR plans can also receive student loan forgiveness up to US$57,000 tax-free after 20 years, which contrasts Warren’s and Sanders’ ambitious plans to forgive student loans much sooner upon entering the White House. 

Are international students welcome under a Bloomberg administration?

What about international students? How will they fare if Bloomberg becomes president? 

While it remains to be seen, Bloomberg’s immigration policies appear to be more welcoming than Trump’s.

Bloomberg notes that he would push for the creation of a startup visa and will create an opportunity for international students who graduate with advanced degrees in essential fields like STEM, healthcare or business to apply for green cards. 

International students have been facing numerous hurdles under the Trump administration, with many of the country’s new policies or directives sending students from certain countries the message that they are not welcome in the US.

For instance, students from China have been facing obstacles regarding their student visas. Recently, the US announced it would extend its controversial travel ban to another six countries, bringing the number of countries affected by the ban to 13.

Meanwhile, students with valid visas have also been deported.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

What’s the problem with student loan forgiveness plans?

This alternative to student loans could solve the US student debt crisis