Whether it's because he's slipping in the polls, strategically earning press coverage ahead of the first Democratic debate, or simply echoing the same buzz words he circulated in 2016, Bernie Sanders' free college plea has just dramatically expanded. On Monday, the Senator proposed that all student loan debt be erased, which totals $1.6 trillion.
As part of his tuition-free policy bid, Sanders is proposing that the federal government use funding to eliminate the student loan debt of 45 million Americans. Under this legislation, both undergraduate and graduate loan debt would be canceled and paid for by instituting a tax on Wall Street that he says will raise more than $2 trillion over the course of the next decade, per the Washington Post.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is introducing a companion bill in the House to eliminate all student debt, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who has proposed a bill for tuition-free college, joined Sanders' proposal and appeared alongside him at a press conference on Monday.
The Senator from Vermont was also accompanied by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who similarly offered up her support of the legislation. “It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt," she told reporters. "So that should tell you everything about the state of this, of our economy and the state of quality of life for working people.”
Additionally, Sanders' bill would make it so student interest rates are no higher than what the federal government pays, to ensure that it is not profiting off of student loan debt. The federal government would also allocate funding towards eliminating the cost students pay to attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
As noted by HuffPost, black students are disproportionately affected by student loan debt. According to the Brookings Institution, four years after graduation, “black graduates have nearly $25,000 more student loan debt than white graduates.”
Elizabeth Warren, who's occupying roughly the same progressive placement on the spectrum of Democratic candidates as Sanders unveiled her college tuition plan in April, and while there exists an elimination of student loan debt, she proposed that caps be instituted. Under her plan, $1.25 trillion of student loan debt would be canceled, and the percentage of debt forgiven would depend on household income. Up to $50,000 would be eliminated for those making less than $100,000 a year, whereas borrowers who make between $100,000 and $250,000 would have a portion of their debt canceled, per the New York Times.