In a plan released on Tuesday, Warren said she would call on the secretary of education to “use their authority to begin to compromise and modify federal student loans consistent with my plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for 95 percent of student loan borrowers.” That would impact about 42 million Americans.
“We’re facing a student loan crisis—one that’s holding back our economy and crushing millions of American families,” Warren said in the release. She said she previously introduced a plan to “broadly cancel student loan debt, provide universal tuition, free public two- and four-year college and technical school, ban for-profit colleges from receiving federal aid, and help end racial disparities in college enrollment and resources.”
Citing potential congressional votes to block such a plan, Warren said the United States cannot wait. “The Department of Education already has broad legal authority to cancel student debt,” she wrote in her release.
Her announcement adds urgency to the legislation (pdf) that she introduced last year to cancel the most outstanding student loan debt. At the same time, Warren is looking to make significant headway ahead of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries next month. In recent weeks, she has slipped in the polls and is now behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In some polls, including surveys taken in Iowa, she trails former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg as well.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Americans hold more than $1.6 billion in student debt as of Jan. 8. The Institute for College Access & Success noted that more than 60 percent of new graduates in Iowa and 75 percent of graduates in New Hampshire have student debt.
Last year, Sanders introduced a plan to forgive all student debt held by 45 million Americans, saying it could be paid for by new taxes on Wall Street. His plan would also make two- and four-year public colleges debt- and tuition-free.
Warren, however, is the only candidate who said they would eliminate student loan debt via executive power.
“If we want to achieve the kind of big, structural changes that will make our education system, our economy, and our society work for everyone, we’re going to need to use every tool, every scrap of opportunity that comes our way, to help working families,” Warren said in a release. “The future of our economy and the lives of a generation of student loan borrowers are at risk, and I’m committed to seeing this fight through no matter what.”