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

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden: 'I'm more of a Democrat from my shoe sole to my ears' than anyone else running Press: Another billionaire need not apply Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism 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 SandersTech firms face skepticism over California housing response Press: Another billionaire need not apply Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick mulling 2020 run: report 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 Devi HarrisPress: Another billionaire need not apply Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism New book questions Harris's record on big banks MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Harris proposes keeping schools open for 10 hours a day 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 ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegPress: Another billionaire need not apply Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism Warren on winning over male voters: I was told to 'smile more' MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment Biden: 'I'm more of a Democrat from my shoe sole to my ears' than anyone else running 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 John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment 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 Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Poll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump demands Bidens testify 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) RyanStrategists say Warren 'Medicare for All' plan could appeal to centrists Trump mocks O'Rourke after Democrat drops out of race The Memo: What the leading 2020 Dems need to do 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.