Jim Webb's Surprisingly Bipartisan Views on Student Loans

“Stay tuned,” Jim Webb told the International Association of Firefighters at a recent presidential forum.

The former Democratic senator from Virginia opened an exploratory committee in 2014 and is slowly mounting his campaign for his party’s nomination for president. Recent polls show support for Webb within the margin of error, meaning possibly nonexistent, but his frank authenticity and ability to connect with middle-class and poor voters could make him a viable alternative to Hillary Clinton. Let’s take a look at what kind of a candidate Webb will be and how college affordability and student loans will play into his platform.

Webb’s position on college affordability, like much of his record, doesn’t fit neatly into any political box. While he has been a staunch defender of rural, impoverished communities in many of his speeches, his positions on college affordability have shown him to be far more to the right than you might think. Most notably, Webb was the only Democrat to vote against his party’s 2012 bill to keep student loan interest rates from doubling, and he signed off on a 2009 letter to Harry Reid urging him to reconsider efforts to reform the student loan system. His opposition to the legislation has been attributed by some to his ties to big banks, and this report linked Webb with the lobbying efforts and campaign contributions of Sallie Mae, JPMorgan, and Wells Fargo.

Going further back into Webb’s experience, you might be forgiven for thinking of him as a Republican. A Naval Academy and Georgetown Law School graduate with two Purple Hearts for service in Vietnam, he served as Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. He supported the Vietnam War and still believes it was the right choice for the U.S., and he’s also in firm opposition to affirmative action and gets a solid "A" rating from the NRA.

Webb does have solid credentials within the Democratic Party as well. He believes in collective bargaining, he opposed the war in Iraq, and he supported Obamacare as a senator. His most recent speeches have featured strong language calling for college affordability and more-accessible skills training for adults and veterans. “In addition to having limited time to focus on improving their job skills, many working families cannot pursue job training or higher education without sacrificing what little financial security they may enjoy,” Webb said at a recent speech.

Webb has repeatedly focused on working families and veterans rather than on more traditional students, and he hasn’t brought forth any ideas supporting loan refinancing, forgiveness, or freezes on interest rates for borrowers. Only time will tell what his platform will be, and with Clinton’s chokehold on the moderate space in the Democratic Party, we may see Webb move further to the left. For now, however, it doesn’t look like Jim Webb endeavors to take on banks in the name of affordable education. We will have to stay tuned.

To learn more about what private sector options are available to help graduates with student debt save, visit Credible.