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Grading Sen. Elizabeth Warren's Student Loan Relief Plan

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a Service Employees International Union forum on labor issues, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a Service Employees International Union forum on labor issues, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Las Vegas. (John Locher/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan relief plan could help 95 percent of people burdened by student debt. So why are some critics on the right and the left calling it unfair?


Emily Wilkins, education reporter for Bloomberg Government. ( @emrwilkins)

Louise Seamster, professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. ( @louise_seamster)

Catherine Rampell, Washington Post columnist who covers economics, public policy, politics and culture. ( @crampell)

From The Reading List

Four Academics Support Sen. Warren’s Student Debt Cancellation Policy

Washington Post: “ Warren’s free-college-and-debt-forgiveness plan may be liberal, but it isn’t progressive” — “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) might want to work on making her free-college-and-debt-forgiveness plan more progressive.

“That might sound like a weird criticism for a candidate already vying for the left-most lane in the 2020 primary. But I don’t mean ‘progressive’ in the sense of ‘more palatable synonym for liberal.’

“I mean ‘progressive’ in the sense of ‘more generous to the poor than the wealthy.’

“Warren deserves credit for focusing the 2020 campaign on America’s need to invest in human capital. A college degree is one of the best investments a person can make, with higher average returns than stocks, bonds, gold, housing. There are also large positive economic spillovers from having a more-educated populace. Yet states have been disinvesting in higher education for decades.

“Unsurprisingly, reducing college costs is also popular. Nine in 10 Americans say college affordability is a very big or moderately big problem, according to Pew Research Center.”

Business Insider: “ Elizabeth Warren is trying to tackle the skyrocketing cost of education with a plan to forgive student-loan debt and offer free college — but experts are divided on her ambitious idea” — “On Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled an ambitious plan to relieve most Americans’ student loan debt and make public college free for all.

“Warren’s policy would cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for every American whose family makes up to $100,000, and make all public higher education, including community colleges, free for all.

“The plan is vast in scope: it would eliminate all student debt for 75% of Americans who have it, and get rid of at least some debt for 95% of the almost 45 million affected Americans, according to an analysis by four social policy professors released by the campaign.”

Yahoo Finance: “ Elizabeth Warren hits back at study criticizing $640 billion student debt plan” — “A leading think tank described presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s massive student debt cancellation plan as “regressive” and “expensive,” arguing that it wouldn’t help low-income borrowers much relative to higher-income counterparts.

“Senator Warren’s (D-MA) office pushed back against the study, telling Yahoo Finance:

“‘This is a highly progressive proposal — we’re taxing the fortunes of people with over $50 million in wealth to provide student loan debt cancellation to 42 million lower-income and middle-class Americans,’ a Warren aide said in a statement. ‘Experts in student loan debt said the proposal will “greatly benefit households with the least ability to repay,” help close the racial wealth gap by substantially increasing Black and Latinx wealth, and provide total debt cancellation to more than 80% of people in the bottom 60% of incomes, while providing no cancellation to anyone in the top 5% of incomes.’

“Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Adam Looney wrote a scathing analysis of the $640 billion plan, arguing that ‘despite her best intentions and her description of the plan as progressive, a quick analysis finds the Warren proposal to be regressive, expensive, and full of uncertainties.’ ”

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.