Pete Buttigieg could become the first president with student loan debt

Student loan debt is set to become a major issue on the 2020 presidential campaign trail.

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana and presidential hopeful, and his husband have over $US130,000 in student loan debt, according to financial disclosures reviewed by the AP on Sunday. A campaign spokesperson would not tell AP whether the loans belong to Buttigieg, his husband, or both.

Buttigieg has spoken previously about how he and his husband, Chasten, have debt. If elected, he intends to make public tuition free for lower- to middle-income families.

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“Chasten is a teacher, so that involved getting a master’s degree, and between the teacher training programs he was in as well as his bachelor’s and master’s, it’s left us with a lot of debt,” Buttigieg told VICE in March.

The typical borrower owes between $US20,000 to $US25,000 in student loan debt as of 2017, according to the Fed. Outstanding student loan debt reached a record $US1.46 trillion last year. Economists have found parallels between the student loan crisis and the subprime mortgage crisis, and predict as many as 40% of students could default on their debt by 2030.

The student loan debt disproportionately impacts millennials like Buttigieg, who is the youngest leading candidate in the race. Yet many older borrowers still struggle to pay off loans: a record number of Americans over 50 are carrying some form of student debt.

Elizabeth Warren took a bold stance on tackling the student loan crisis after she proposed eliminating up to $US50,000 in student debt for 42 million Americans.

While no other major candidate has proposed cancelling student debt, most have offered proposals to make college more affordable. Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed providing $US47 billion in federal funding to make state universities tuition free. Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker sponsored a bill to incentivise states to lower the cost of college.

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