April 22 (UPI) -- Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called for free tuition at public colleges and forgiveness of student loan debt that she said has crippled the middle class.
The plan would become an "enormous middle-class stimulus" that would boost economic growth, increase home purchases and create more small businesses, the Massachusetts senator said. It would also increase wealth for minorities, adding a $50 billion fund to help historically black colleges and universities.
The proposal would spend $1.25 trillion over 10 years to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt for families earning under $100,000 a year, make public college tuition-free and spend $100 billion on grants to help college students with non-tuition expenses. Americans earning between $100,000 to $250,000 a year would still get loan debt forgiven on a sliding scale.
The loan forgiveness and free tuition would be funded from the 2 percent annual tax Warren plans to charge wealthy Americans earning $50 million or more. It goes up to 3 percent for those earning $1 billion a year.
"The entire cost of my broad debt cancellation plan and universal free college is more than covered by my Ultra-Millionaire Tax," Warren said. "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."
Warren's plan for universal public colleges comes less than two weeks after fellow Democratic senator Bernie Sanders announced plans for a Medicare for All package that would essentially create universal health care in the United States.
Warren talked about being a young mother enrolling in classes at the University of Houston for $50 a semester in the 1970s. That education led to her becoming a special needs teacher, a law school professor, a U.S. Senator and now a candidate for president of the United States.
"Today, it's virtually impossible for a young person to find that kind of opportunity," Warren said. "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 toward taking out loans."
Warren said for-profit college lure students in with false promises that result in student debt, yet they are still funded by taxpayer dollars. Employers have increased educational credentials but workers still have to pay for the additional education themselves.
Warren is one of now 19 Democratic challenges seeking to take on President Donald Trump in November 2020.