Bernie Sanders Wants to Wipe Out All Student Loan Debt

"If we could bail out Wall Street, we sure as hell can reduce student debt in this country."
Bernie student debt

Sen. Bernie Sanders is set to announce a student debt plan on Monday, and it’s the most ambitious plan put forth by any 2020 Democrat to date.

In short: He wants to erase all student debt.

Under the Sanders plan, there would be no eligibility standards — it would cancel $1.6 trillion in undergraduate and graduate debt for all 45 million people who hold it. Sanders would also make public universities, community colleges, and trade schools free.


The Vermont senator hinted at the announcement in a speech over the weekend, saying it was a necessary measure to help younger generations achieve a higher standard of living.

"We are going to forgive student debt in this country," Sanders said. "We have for the first time in the modern history of this country a younger generation that if we don't change it, and we intend to change it, will have a lower standard of living than their parents, more in debt, lower wages than their parents, unable to buy the house that they desire."

Sanders intends to pay for the plan with taxes on Wall Street, namely a 0.5 percent tax on stock transactions and a 0.1 percent tax on bonds. The plan is projected to cost $2.2 trillion over 10 years.

"Congress voted to bail out the crooks on Wall Street — do you remember that?" he said in the speech on Saturday in South Carolina. "They provided seven hundred billion in federal loans and in addition trillions of dollars in zero or very-low-interest loans. So I think the time is now for Wall Street to repay that obligation to the American people. If we could bail out Wall Street, we sure as hell can reduce student debt in this country."

Sanders helped pushed student debt and free college into the mainstream during his 2016 campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination and — as VICE News’ Rex Santus and Kelly Vinett wrote in detail — it has become a central question for 2020 candidates.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed an ambitious plan that would include free undergraduate tuition and debt cancelation of up to $50,000 for every person with loans. There would be some limitations, however, with the amount of debt relief falling $1 for every $3 people earn beyond a $100,000 household income threshold. Relative longshot Julián Castro proposed a more modest plan in which borrowers wouldn’t pay anything until they earned at least 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

Some candidates, like former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, haven’t been entirely clear on where they stand on either free tuition or debt cancelation. But others, like Pete Buttigieg, have said they do not support debt cancelation or free tuition. Buttigieg said he has a “hard time getting [his] head around the idea of a majority who earn less because they didn’t go to college subsidizing a minority who earn more because they did.”

Sanders will announce his proposed bill on Monday alongside Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Cover: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pauses while speaking during a forum on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Miami. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)