Joe Biden announced on August 11, 2020 that U.S. Senator Kamala Harris is his choice as Vice President.

Joe Biden’s pick of Kamala Harris as his running mate generates renewed interest in her positions on paying for college. 

Student Loan Forgiveness

Kamala Harris co-sponsored the What You Can Do For Your Country Act, which overhauls the public service loan forgiveness program. The legislation expands public service loan forgiveness to include FFELP loans in addition to Direct Loans, and all repayment plans. The legislation also provides partial forgiveness of half of the borrower’s debt after five years of public service, with the remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.

Kamala Harris has proposed forgiving up to $20,000 in student loans for Federal Pell Grant recipients who start a new business in a disadvantaged community. 

Free Tuition

Kamala Harris supports free tuition at community colleges. She also supports free tuition at 4-year public colleges for low and middle-income students. 

Kamala Harris has co-sponsored several bills that propose free tuition and debt-free college programs. 

  • The College for All Act eliminates tuition and required fees at community colleges for all students and at public 4-year colleges for Federal Pell Grant recipients and students with family income under $125,000. Funded by a federal/state partnership, states would be required to cover all financial need of Federal Pell Grant recipients beyond the Federal Pell Grant. 
  • The Debt-Free College Act covers the cost of room and board, books and other college costs for eligible students at in-state public colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI). 
  • The America’s College Promise Act waives tuition and fees at community colleges and for the first 60 credits for low-income students at HBCUs and MSIs that enroll at least 35% low-income students. Eligible students must enroll on at least a half-time basis, qualify for in-state tuition and maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). 

Kamala Harris has also introduced her own college affordability legislation. The Basic Assistance for Students in College Act provides $500 million in competitive grants to colleges to fund basic needs for low-income students, including food, transportation, child care, health care and technology.

Student Loan Interest Rates

Kamala Harris supports the College for All Act, which would cut interest rates on new federal student loans in half and allow borrowers of older federal loans to benefit from the new lower interest rates. 

Interest rates on new undergraduate student loans would be pegged to the 91-day T-bill plus 1.09% and capped at 5%. (A subsequent version of this legislation would set interest rates on all new federal student loans, including Federal Direct Consolidation Loans, at 1.88%.)

For-Profit Colleges

When she was California Attorney General, Kamala Harris signed a letter along with 20 other state attorneys general calling on Congress to modify the 90/10 rule to count military student aid alongside Title IV federal student aid. She also filed a lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges in 2014. 

More recently, she joined 16 other Democratic Senators in urging Congressional leaders to exclude for-profit colleges from coronavirus higher education emergency relief funding in 2020. 

She has said that she will provide more protections for students and crack down on for-profit colleges.

Federal Work-Study

Kamala Harris supports the College for All Act, which would triple Federal Work-Study (FWS) program funding and change the allocation formula. The new allocation formula would be based on the aggregate financial need of each college’s students and not on historical allocations.

Increased Funding for HBCUs and MSIs

Kamala Harris has been a strong supporter of increased funding for HBCUs. She has proposed $60 billion in STEM funding for HBCUs, including $50 billion to fund scholarships, fellowships and research grants. The remaining $10 billion would support building classrooms, laboratories and other facilities. 

Kamala Harris is a graduate of Howard University, a HBCU. 

Undocumented Students

Kamala Harris supports the Debt-Free College Act, which provides college financial aid grants to Dreamers. 

College Financial Aid for Prisoners

In 2014, Kamala Harris was involved in efforts to reduce recidivism among prisoners by providing them with college classes and reentry services.

Suspension of Financial Aid for Drug Convictions

Kamala Harris supports the Debt-Free College Act, which repeals the suspension of federal student aid eligibility for students with convictions for the sale or possession of illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid.

College Rankings

Kamala Harris signed a letter in 2018 with five other Senators to encourage U.S. News and World Report to modify its rankings to place more emphasis on colleges that provide more access to underrepresented populations. 

Rocky Relationship with College Financial Aid Administrators

As San Francisco district attorney, Kamala Harris charged Philip R. Day, who was President of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), with eight felonies in connection with his alleged misuse of public funds when he was chancellor of City College of San Francisco. Dr. Day resigned as president of NASFAA.

Comparison of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Paying for College

This table compares the college affordability proposals supported by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

ProposalsJoe BidenKamala Harris
Free TuitionSupports free tuition at community colleges for all students and free tuition at public 4-year colleges for family income under $125,000. 
 
Supports the College for All Act
Supports free tuition at community colleges for all students and free tuition at public 4-year colleges for family income under $125,000. 
 
Supports the College for All Act and the Debt-Free College Act
Increase the Federal Pell GrantDoubles the maximum Federal Pell Grant and index it for inflation
Undocumented StudentsSupports making Dreamers eligible for the Federal Pell GrantSupports making Dreamers eligible for the Federal Pell Grant
Student Loan Interest RatesSupports reducing the interest rates on all federal student loans, including previous federal loansSupports reducing the interest rates on all federal student loans, including previous federal loans
Funding for HBCUs, HSIs, MSIs and Tribal Colleges and UniversitiesFree tuition, plus $18 billion in grantsFree tuition, plus $60 billion in STEM funding 
Income-Driven RepaymentCuts loan payments in half to 5% of discretionary income (defined as excess of AGI over $25,000) with tax-free forgiveness of remaining debt after 20 years in repayment
Loan ForgivenessProposes forgiveness of all tuition-related undergraduate federal student loan debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year and attended public colleges, HBCUs and MSIsProposes $20,000 in loan forgiveness for Pell Grant entrepreneurs, with 3-year interest-free entrepreneurship deferment for remaining debt of participants
Public Service Loan ForgivenessExpands PSLF to include all federal student loans and repayment plans, provides partial forgiveness after 5 years, and supports What You Can Do for Your Country Act. Proposes up-front loan forgiveness of $10,000 per year for five years.Expands PSLF to include all federal student loans and repayment plans, provides partial forgiveness after 5 years, and supports What You Can Do for Your Country Act
Bankruptcy Discharge of Student LoansPreviously opposed, but now supports