By Elizabeth Warren
Growing up, my dream was to become a teacher. And I knew that if I wanted to teach, I had to get a college degree.
I managed to get a college scholarship, but then things turned upside down. The first boy I ever dated swooped back into my life and said he wanted to marry me. So I did what any sensible, mature 19-year-old would do: I said yes and dropped out of college.
I thought my dream of teaching was over. But then a friend told me about the University of Houston, a public four-year college about 40 minutes away. We were a young couple, watching every nickel. I figured I couldn’t afford it.
But it turned out that tuition was just $50 a semester. This was a quality, public education — and I could afford it on a part-time waitressing salary. This time, I had the good sense to grab my chance at college with both hands. I got my degree and I got to live my dream: I became a teacher for students with special needs.
Higher education opened a million doors for me. It’s how the daughter of a janitor in a small town in Oklahoma got to become a teacher, a law school professor, a U.S. Senator, and eventually, a candidate for President of the United States.
Today, it’s virtually impossible for a young person to find that kind of opportunity. 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. 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.
The result is a huge student loan debt burden that’s crushing millions of families and acting as an anchor on our economy. It’s reducing home ownership rates. It’s leading fewer people to start businesses. It’s forcing students to drop out of school before getting a degree. It’s a problem for all of us.
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.
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.
The first step in addressing this crisis is to deal head-on with the outstanding debt that is weighing down millions of families and should never have been required in the first place. That’s why I’m calling for something truly transformational — the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.
My plan for broad student debt cancellation will:
- Cancel debt for more than 95% of the nearly 45 million Americans with student loan debt;
- Wipe out student loan debt entirely for more than 75% of the Americans with that debt;
- Substantially increase wealth for Black and Latinx families and reduce both the Black-White and Latinx-White wealth gaps; and
- Provide an enormous middle-class stimulus that will boost economic growth, increase home purchases, and fuel a new wave of small business formation.
Once we’ve cleared out the debt that’s holding down an entire generation of Americans, we must ensure that we never have another student debt crisis again. We can do that by recognizing that a public college education is like a public K-12 education — a basic public good that should be available to everyone with free tuition and zero debt at graduation. My plan for universal free college will:
- Give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees;
- Make free college truly universal — not just in theory, but in practice — by making higher education of all kinds more inclusive and available to every single American, especially lower-income, Black, and Latinx students, without the need to take on debt to cover costs.
Some people will say we can’t afford this plan. That’s nonsense. The entire cost of my broad debt cancellation plan and universal free college is more than covered by my Ultra-Millionaire Tax — a 2% annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth. For decades, we’ve allowed the wealthy to pay less while burying tens of millions of working Americans in education debt. It’s time to make different choices.
A Real Solution to the Student Debt Crisis: Broad Debt Cancellation
SOURCE: Medium.com – Elizabeth Warren