23 April, 2019
Student loan debt in the United States is over $1.56 trillion, the highest it has ever been.
About 45 million Americans have debt from attending a college or university. Two-thirds of students who graduated in 2017 left school with loans averaging $28,650, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.
One lawmaker seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination has proposed canceling billions of dollars of that student loan debt.
Elizabeth Warren is a senator from the state of Massachusetts. This week she announced her college debt forgiveness plan. Her plan would cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for anyone whose yearly household earnings are under $100,000. Such a proposal would affect 42 million Americans.
Her plan also would cancel some debt for those who earn between $100,000 and $250,000.
Warren describes student loan debt as a "crisis" for the country. She said canceling student loan debt for millions of Americans would help close the country's racial and wealth gap.
Warren also proposes making all two- and four-year public colleges free.
She said her debt-cancellation program and her Universal Free College plan would cost the federal government a total of $1.25 trillion over 10 years.
Warren says that money could come from a so-called "Ultra-Millionaire Tax." This would involve a two-percent yearly tax on American families with a total wealth of over $50 million, and a one-percent tax on those with a total wealth of over $1 billion.
Warren has also proposed a $100 billion investment in Pell Grants over the next 10 years. The need-based federal aid program requires no payback. Pell Grant money goes to the neediest students and helps them pay for all of the costs of college -- tuition and fees, room and board, transportation, and books and other supplies.
Warren wrote about her proposals Monday on the website Medium. She wrote, "The enormous student debt burden weighing down our economy isn't the result of laziness or irresponsibility. It's the result of a government that has consistently put the interests of the wealthy and well-connected over the interests of working families."
Warren is one of more than 20 Democrats competing for their party's 2020 nomination. She has sought to set herself apart by offering several expansive policy proposals.
Education has been a central topic for other Democratic presidential candidates, too. Kamala Harris, a California senator released a plan that would give school teachers a 25-percent pay raise. Low pay has been blamed as one reason for the country's worsening teacher shortage.
Warren, Harris and several other Democrats running for president are backing the 2019 Debt-Free College Act. The bill would cover all costs for students attending in-state, public colleges.
The Democratic proposal stands in contrast to recent education-related proposals from the Republican administration of President Donald Trump.
Last month, the administration proposed several changes to the ways Americans pay back their student loans. The changes were included in proposed reforms to the national Higher Education Act.
The changes included canceling the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The program forgives federal student loans for some people who work full-time for a given amount of time in federal, state or local public service positions. The change would only affect students who borrow money after July 1, 2020.
Other changes include ending the subsidized student loans program in order to save the government money. Under that program, the U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on student loans while borrowers are still in schools.
The administration has proposed similar changes in earlier budget plans. The U.S. Congress, however, has voted against them.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
Ashley Thompson adapted this story based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and additional materials. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
graduate - v. to earn a degree or diploma from a school, college, or university
gap - n. a difference between two people, groups, or things
ultra - adj. beyond : extremely : more than is usual
tuition - n. money that is paid to a school for the right to study there
allow - v. to permit
burden - n. someone or something that is very difficult to accept, do, or deal with
laziness - n. the condition of not liking to work hard or to be active
consistent - adj. always acting or behaving in the same way
contrast - n. to be different especially in a way that is very obvious
topic- n. someone or something that people talk or write about
forgive - v. to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)
subsidize - v. to help someone or something pay for the costs of (something)