Hillary Clinton proposes student debt deferral for startup founders

Hillary Clinton put forward a set of proposals, in a newly released agenda on technology and innovation, that would treat entrepreneurs and startup workers more favorably than other student debtors.

In a move aimed at “breaking down barriers and leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs and innovators who are launching their own startups”, Clinton proposed allowing startup founders to defer student debt payment for up to three years. The deferrals would also be available to a new company’s first 10 to 20 employees.

The student debt proposals are just one facet of a broad platform aimed at promoting the tech industry, but they drew immediate backlash on Twitter, where users asked why entrepreneurs should receive special treatment.

Clinton has proposed several ways to lower college debt for American students, but creating a program specifically targeted at benefitting tech workers carries political risks. Fairly or unfairly, the industry has become associated with the upper-middle class and white men, not the most sympathetic recipients of government aid programs.

Additionally, Clinton proposes student loan forgiveness of up to $17,500 after five years for “young innovators” who either launch a new businesses in “distressed communities” or “social enterprises that provide measurable social impact and benefit”.

“It’s bad. 6 mo ago HRC fought free college b/c it privileged the wealthy,” tweeted Troy Nichols, who said he both worked in tech and has student debt. “This does that explicitly.”

“What about artists?” tweeted actress Zoe Kazan. “Please think about forgiving debts for young people in art schools/starting careers in the arts… so that people who do not come from privileged backgrounds (w/ parents, like mine, who could pay for college) can also afford to make art.”

— zoe kazan (@zoeinthecities)
June 28, 2016

.@WIRED @HillaryClinton what about artists? Please think about forgiving debts for young people in art schools/starting careers in the arts

The cost of college and student debt was a fraught issue during the Democratic primary, in which tuition-free and debt-free college was a key (and popular) part of Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

“It doesn’t add up, my friends,” she said of Sanders’ proposals. Or, as she put it more caustically in a Democratic debate, “I disagree with free college for everybody. I don’t think taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump’s kids to college.”

Clinton’s proposal for college education states that students should be able to attend a four-year public college in their state without debt through a combination of Pell Grants, “affordable and realistic” family contributions, and 10-hours-per-week work requirements.

The education department already offers some loan forgiveness programs, but they’re considered paltry by global standards.

For instance, teachers can get up to $17,500 forgiven if they teach five consecutive years at a public elementary or high school and meet other conditions. Government and some not-for-profit workers can get their balance forgiven on some federal student loans if they make 120 on-time monthly payments. Most American college graduates would be approaching their mid-30s by that point.

The Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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