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Sen. Elizabeth Warren announces her run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in February 2018.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren announces her run for re-election to the U.S. Senate in February 2018. (Photo: Flickr)

'A Really Exciting Proposal': Elizabeth Warren's Education Overhaul Would Wipe Out Student Debt, Provide Free Public College

"I'm calling for something truly transformational ," said the Massachusetts senator. 

Eoin Higgins

Elizabeth Warren wants to cancel part or all student loan debt for 95 percent of Americans and make public college free for everyone—the latest, and perhaps most ambitious, policy proposal for the 2020 Democratic contender. 

Warren announced the policy in a Medium post Monday morning.

The Massachusetts Democrat told readers that her own past as a waitress who was able to attend public college due to the school's low cost is now unattainable for most Americans.

But Warren aims to change that.

"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," wrote Warren. "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."

Warren, in a fundraising email to supporters, said that the policy's goals writ large aimed at righting past wrongs.

"My plan for universal free college would give every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees," said Warren. "And we'll 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. Free tuition, and zero debt at graduation."

That will also take public investment, said The New York Times's Astead W. Herndon.

Ms. Warren's sweeping plan has several planks.... In addition to eliminating undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities, she would expand federal grants to help students with nontuition expenses and create a $50 billion fund to support historically black colleges and universities.

Estimates put the cost of the program at around $1.25 trillion.

The education overhaul would be paid for, Warren told Herndon, by less than half of a decade's worth of her Ultra-Millionaire Tax — a 2 percent annual tax on the 75,000 families with $50 million or more in wealth.

Warren's wealth tax would generate $2.75 trillion over a decade, leaving $1.5 trillion available for her other proposed transformative social policies, like protecting public lands from exploitation and universal childcare and pre-k. 

In an interview aired Monday, Warren told CNN's M.J. Lee that her program goes further than the free college plan put forward by her 2020 primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

"It covers more and it addresses both the access question of going to college and the problem of the debt burden for our students," said Warren. 

Sanders and Warren are competing for left-wing Democratic votes and both have put forward ambitious proposals on the environment, taxes, healthcare, and, now, education. 

The Nation community editor Annie Shields said she was excited not only by the proposal but by how Warren made the case to CNN's Lee. 

"This is a really exciting proposal and I'm really impressed with how Warren sells it in this segment," said Shields. 

Initial reaction from progressives to Warren's plan was positive, though the Massachusetts Democrat's low polling numbers in the crowded primary continue to baffle many on the left. 

"If we're talking primary candidates whose policies would affect the material conditions of the working class, Warren is the way ahead of the game here," said journalist Andray Domise. 

"Warren is consistently offering substantive policies (let's see if folks will actually evaluate them)," tweeted activist Mariame Kaba.

"How Warren is polling below *Joe freaking Biden* baffles me," said Right Wing Watch's Jared Holt.

"Elizabeth Warren is pushing out some great policy proposals," said Arnesa Buljušmić-Kustura. "I feel like she's been really minimized so far and I hope people start paying attention."

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