Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a plan last month for universal free public college and the cancellation of student loan debt. As a candidate in the Democratic residential primary, Warren has characterized herself and her campaign as having big ideas with big plans to back them up.
The cost of higher education and the exploding student loan debt has created a national crisis. Over 44 million people have outstanding student loans, totaling over $1.5 trillion.
Last week, billionaire Robert F. Smith, founder of Vista Equity Partners, committed to paying off all debt of the 2019 graduating class from Morehouse College. The story made headlines just weeks after Warren unveiled her plan.
Pulling from her experience of supporting her college education on the salary of a waitress, Warren makes the case that young people today don’t have the opportunities she and her peers once had.
“As states have invested less per-student at community colleges and public four-year colleges, the schools themselves have raised tuition and fees to make up the gap,” Warren said. “And rather than stepping in to hold states accountable, or to pick up more of the tab and keep costs reasonable, the federal government went with a third option: pushing families that can’t afford to pay the outrageous costs of higher education towards taking out loans.”
Student loan debt is a major concern for today’s college students, as a 2014 survey found that almost half of college students considered dropping out because of the massive debt they were accumulating. This truly is a crisis and its refreshing that a presidential candidate has such a concrete plan to fix this.
The first part of Warren’s plan would cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt for every American. This would cancel the debt of 75 percent of those with outstanding student loans.
The second part of the plan would recognize higher education as a public good, the way that K-12 public education currently is. Public colleges and universities would become tuition-free and all graduates would be debt-free.
This plan will obviously save average Americans thousands of dollars and unneeded stress, but it may also have some underlying positive effects. One such example is the fact that Warren’s plan would also increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce the race wealth-gap.
Black and Latinx students have had it especially rough when it comes to student loan debt. A 2015 study found that black students borrowed more and more often to be able to go to college. It also found that black and Latinx students drop out with debt at far higher rates than white students; 39 percent of all black students with debt ended up dropping out.
The plan is good for all middle and lower-class families, and especially beneficial to those who have struggled the most. It can all be paid for with Warren’s common sense “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” which would create a two percent annual tax on families with $50 million or more.
This new tax is a no-brainer, it’s not fair to continue letting millions of Americans struggle for higher education while these ultra-rich families accumulate massive amounts of wealth and receive tax cuts.
Warren has been trying to set herself apart from the crowded Democratic primary field by releasing plan after plan to tackle the issues that plague America. Her universal college plan is yet another great proposal that would allow average citizens to reap the benefits.
As we head into the messy primary season, its important to remember that policy is far more important than personality. Let’s continue to focus on real solutions to help real people.