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Elizabeth Warren Wants to Cancel Student Debt and Make College Free

Elizabeth Warren.
Elizabeth Warren. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Yet again, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has rolled out a staggering policy proposal that would materially benefit the lives of millions: canceling nearly all outstanding student-loan debt.

Just as she did with her ambitious proposal for universal child care, Warren announced her sweeping new higher-education plan in a lengthy Medium post, which centers on the student-debt crisis and the prohibitive cost of higher education. To address this issue, Warren calls for the immediate cancellation of up to $50,000 in debt for 42 million Americans as well as for the elimination of tuition at every public college in America. She also wants to invest $100 billion into Pell grants, which are need-based federal grants aimed at helping low-income students afford college, and to increase funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Were this plan to be enacted, more than 75 percent of Americans with student-loan debt would see it fully canceled.

“The time for half-measures is over,” Warren wrote in the Medium post. “My broad cancellation plan is a real solution to our student-debt crisis. It helps millions of families and removes a weight that’s holding back our economy.”

Warren also outlined her payment plan for the proposal, which she estimates would cost approximately $1.25 trillion over a decade. Per the post, the funding would come from her proposed “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” which some experts say would raise $2.75 trillion in ten years. Because the debt crisis is deterring people from starting new businesses and “forcing students to drop out of school before getting a degree,” Warren writes, “it’s a problem for all of us.”

Warren’s detailed higher-education plan is the most ambitious yet from a 2020 candidate. (Bernie Sanders also wants to make two- and four-year public colleges free for all, and he called for loan refinancing in his 2017 College for All Act, but has not gone as far as to ask the government to cancel debt.)

“We got into this crisis because state governments and the federal government decided that instead of treating higher education like our public-school system — free and accessible to all Americans — they’d rather cut taxes for billionaires and giant corporations and offload the cost of higher education onto students and their families,” Warren writes. “The student-debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment. It’s time to end that experiment, to clean up the mess it’s caused, and to do better  —  better for people who want to go (or go back) to college, better for current students, better for graduates, better for their families, and better for our entire economy.”

Elizabeth Warren Wants to Wipe Out Student Debt for Millions