Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAmerica can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Misguided recusal rules lock valuable leaders out of the Pentagon MORE (D-Mass.), a 2020 presidential candidate, unveiled a sweeping plan Monday to reform higher education that would cancel nearly all student loan debt and create universal free public college.

Warren's plan would cancel up to $50,000 in debt for 42 million Americans — 95 percent of those carrying student loan debt — and allow every American to attend a two- or four-year public college tuition-free. She added that the "entire cost" of the plans would be covered by her proposed 2 percent annual tax on families with $50 million or more, which she calls the "ultra-millionaire tax."

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"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. The student debt crisis is the direct result of this failed experiment," Warren wrote in a post on Medium.

"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," she wrote.

Tuition-free college and forgiveness of student loan debt has gained steam in recent years in Democratic circles, with most of the 2020 field supporting one or both of the ideas. Most notably, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin meets with Sanders, Jayapal amid spending stalemate America can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE (I-Vt.) ran on a plan to make college tuition free during his 2016 presidential campaign, having introduced a bill the same year called the College for All Act, which Warren, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris to campaign with McAuliffe in Virginia Harris to highlight drought, climate change in Nevada trip Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Biden signs bill to help victims of 'Havana syndrome' Lawmakers using leadership PACs as 'slush funds' to live lavish lifestyles: report MORE (D-N.Y.) all co-sponsored.

“Sen. Warren’s student-debt and college-affordability proposals give the current generation a chance at financial health,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement. “These proposals are as consequential as the GI Bill and would be a game-changer for millions of Americans being crushed by $1.5 trillion in student debt.”

The Massachusetts Democrat's proposal is the latest in a string of policy papers she has released over the past nine months, including multiple proposals since she announced her presidential bid on New Year’s Eve. Since then, she’s proposed reforms to break up tech giants such as Facebook and Google, a universal pre-K program she says would also be paid for by the ultra-millionaire tax and, most recently, a plan to protect public lands.

Yet her policy bonafides have not translated into a bump in the polls, where she struggles to keep pace with the party’s current front-runners, including Sanders, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block Buttigieg says delay in climate action will cost lives amid reports of Manchin roadblock Sunday shows - Buttigieg warns supply chain issues could stretch to next year MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE, who has not yet officially announced his candidacy. According to recent polls, Warren is tied for fourth in Iowa with 7 percent support and fourth in New Hampshire with 9 percent backing.

The proposals, however, have provided fundraising bumps for her campaign, which raised $6 million overall during the first fundraising quarter. But the campaign spent $5.2 million during the same time period as she carries a campaign with 170 staffers on board.

Most recently, Warren made waves Friday with her call for the House to begin the impeachment process against President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE, becoming one of the first 2020 Democratic candidates to make the jump. 

Other Democrats have not been willing to join her call. Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products MORE (D-N.J.) said Sunday while campaigning in Nevada that he doesn’t think it’s “time to move forward” with impeachment proceedings. Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanTwo senior House Democrats to retire Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse Tim Ryan's campaign raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (D-Ohio) said that House Democrats should continue to open up the investigation and “let the process play itself out,” making it clear he isn’t ready for impeachment either.

Warren is slated to appear at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire on Monday night, before campaigning in South Carolina on Tuesday.