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Presidential Candidates' Student Aid Proposals

This page summarizes the student financial aid proposals of the major presidential candidates. Only those proposals listed on the candidate's official web site are included. (Statements made to news media will not be listed because they can potentially be repudiated by a candidate as a misquote or an off-the-cuff remark. For good coverage of such public statements, see the Chronicle of Higher Education.) This list is focused only on campaign promises, and not on past support of higher education.

This listing is nonpartisan. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order. The name of the candidate is listed to the relevant higher education policy page on the candidate's web sites.

For insight into other issues, see Project Vote Smart.

Candidate Political Party Proposals
Joseph R. [Joe] Biden
(press release)
Democrat Grant Proposals
  • Replace the Hope Scholarship and Tuition & Fees Deduction with $3,000 per dependent student College Access refundable tax credit. The income phaseout would increase to $166,000 and be indexed thereafter for inflation. There would be a $12,000 cap for undergraduate and continuing education, and $6,000 cap for graduate education. Minimum of half-time enrollment required.
  • Increase maximum Pell Grant by $300/year to $6,300 in 2011-12.
  • Establish early Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program in four states to commit to Pell Grant funding to 8th graders. This program would be implemented by granting automatic zero EFC to up to 10,000 students in each of two cohorts who qualify for free or reduced school lunch.
Hillary Rodham Clinton Democrat Grant Proposals
  • Replace the Hope Scholarship with a partially refundable $3,500 tuition tax credit (100% first $1,000, 50% next $5,000). The credit would be "advanceable".
  • Increase the maximum Pell Grant. Would maintain value of the Pell Grant by annually adjusting it to take account of rising college costs.
  • Provide $500 million to community colleges and $250 million to four-year colleges in the form of incentive grants to increase graduation rates.
  • Double the Segal Education Award to $10,000 for AmeriCorps.
Loan Proposals
  • Replace FFELP with 100% Direct Lending.
Fixing the Student Loan Crunch
  • Expedite school certification for the Direct Loan program.
  • Allow parents with a recent foreclosure to remain eligible for the Parent PLUS loan.
  • Endorses the lender-of-last-resort program, with the addition of college-wide implementation (as opposed to student-by-student) and the US Department of Education advancing funds to guarantee agencies to make federal education loans.
  • Supports allowing the Direct Loan program to buy loans from FFELP lenders.
Other Proposals
  • Simplify financial aid by allowing families to check off a box on their income tax return instead of submitting the FAFSA.
Christopher J. Dodd
(full plan)
Democrat Grant Proposals
  • $100 annual increase in Pell Grant.
Loan Proposals
  • Require FFELP lenders to compete in a rights auction for federal education loans.
Other Proposals
  • Establish tuition inflation index and highlight colleges that exceed it. Similar to previous proposals for a college affordability index, except would compare tuition increases with tuition inflation instead of twice the consumer price index.
John Reid Edwards Democrat Grant Proposals
  • Pay for one year of public-college tuition, fees and books for more than 2 million students. To be eligible, students would have to complete a college-prep curriculum in high school and stay out of trouble, and work part-time in college.
Loan Proposals
  • Replace FFELP with 100% Direct Lending.
Other Proposals
  • Simplify the FAFSA to eliminate two-thirds of the questions.
Rudolph W. [Rudy] Giuliani Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid. Would permanently extend the 2001 (EGTRRA) and 2003 tax cuts, which include some measures affecting higher education.
Maurice Robert [Mike] Gravel Democrat Nonspecific statement that the candidate supports "government funding of education from pre-kindergarten to higher education."
Michael D. [Mike] Huckabee Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid.
Duncan L. Hunter Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid.
Alan L. Keyes Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid.
Dennis J. Kucinich Democrat Nonspecific statement that the candidate would "provide universal education to all Americans from pre-school through college."
John Sidney McCain Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid. Would permanently extend the 2001 (EGTRRA) and 2003 tax cuts, which include some measures affecting higher education. Added the following proposals for higher education on August 14, 2008:
  • Improved "clear and concise" disclosure of information about colleges to families.
  • Simplify the higher education tax benefits.
  • Simplify federal student aid by consolidating programs and streamlining the application process.
  • Eliminating earmarks.
  • Fix student lending by expanding the lender-of-last resort program, demanding the "highest standard of integrity for participating private lenders" and "leveraging the private sector".

Note: Senator McCain's proposal to substitute a health insurance tax credit ($2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families) for the current exclusion from income for employer-based health insurance coverage may result in a higher AGI. Since the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is based on AGI, this may lead to an increase in the EFC and a corresponding decrease in financial aid of as much as $2,350.

Barack Hussein Obama
(press release, college affordability plan )
Democrat Grant Proposals
  • Establish a $4,000 fully refundable "American Opportunity Tax Credit" available at the time of enrollment. This tax credit would cover 100% of the first $4,000 of college education costs. Recipients would be required to perform 100 hours of community service. The new tax credit would replace the Hope Scholarship and the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit.
  • Ensure that the Pell Grant "keeps pace with the rising cost of college inflation".
Loan Proposals
  • Replace FFELP with 100% Direct Lending.
Other Proposals
  • Eliminate the FAFSA, substituting a checkbox on the federal income tax return.
  • Supports prior-prior-year (PPY) need analysis.
  • Increase student aid transparency.
  • Supports early awareness initiatives.

Note: The language on the Obama Campaign web site indicates that the American Opportunity Tax Credit will "ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans". It is unclear whether this is a one-time $4,000 tax credit or an annual $4,000 tax credit. If it is a one-time tax credit, it would provide a greater benefit than the Hope Scholarship on its own (maximum $1,650 per year and $3,300 in total), but would be inferior to the combined maximum benefit of $7,300 when one adds two years of Lifetime Learning Tax Credits. Taxpayers, however, have an average benefit that is much lower than these maximums according to the GAO (GAO-08-717T, GAO-05-684, GAO-02-751). If it is an annual tax credit, it is clearly superior to the current set of education tax benefits. It is also unclear whether the American Opportunity Tax Credit would be available to graduate and professional students, who currently can benefit from the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit. Since the American Opportunity Tax Credit is fully refundable, it will be better targeted at low income students than the current education tax benefits (albeit not as well-targeted as the Pell Grant program).

Ronald Ernest [Ron] Paul Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid.
Bill Richardson Democrat Grant Proposals
  • Provide two years of tuition and fees at a public university for each year of community service.
Other Proposals
  • Eliminate the FAFSA.
  • Simplify/consolidate the federal student aid programs.
  • Provide financial incentives for schools to keep tuition costs under control.
  • Expand LEAP and GEAR UP.
Willard Mitt Romney Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid. Would permanently extend the 2001 (EGTRRA) and 2003 tax cuts, which include some measures affecting higher education.
Tom Gerald Tancredo Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid.
Fred Dalton Thompson Republican No statements concerning postsecondary education and student financial aid. Flat tax proposal would preserve education tax benefits including the 529 college savings plan, Coverdell ESA and the tuition & fees deduction. Would permanently extend the 2001 (EGTRRA) and 2003 tax cuts, which include some measures affecting higher education.

 

 
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