Sen. Warren Woos Young People: ‘We Can Invest in Billionaires...or Students'

By Susan Jones | February 17, 2014 | 10:10 AM EST

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (AP File Photo)

( - Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says she plans to introduce legislation that would tax the wealthy more and use the money to refinance high-interest student loans. Warren also said she'll look for ways to "meaningfully reduce college tuition."

"Dollar for dollar, we can invest in billionaires, or we can invest in our students," Warren said in a speech on the Senate floor last week.

Warren said the problem of skyrocketing college costs is "made worse by a federal student loan program with high interest rates that will produce obscene profits for the U.S. government."

She plans to introduce legislation that allows borrowers with older, higher-interest loans to refinance at the lower rates currently being offered to new borrowers in the federal student loan program.

Students who are locked into interest rates of 7 percent or higher should be able to refinance, just as homeowners and corporations do when interest rates drop, Warrens said.

"We won’t need to add a single dime to our deficit to pay for this plan,” Warren said. “Right now, this country essentially taxes students – by charging high interest rates that bring money into the government -- while at the same time we give away far more money through a tax code riddled with loopholes and let the wealthiest individuals and corporations avoid paying a fair share. We can close those loopholes and put the money directly into refinancing student loans. "

Warren said it's about opportunity: "Our country should offer a helping hand to the young people who are working hard to try to build a future – not a handout to the billionaires who have already made it.”

The senator noted that she was the first person in her family to graduate from a college -- a commuter college, where tuition was $50 a semester. She said she went to a public law school where she got a "great education."

"I was able to do all of that because I grew up in a country that chose investing in its kids over investing it its billionaires."

According to Warren, a young person today pays 300 percent (adjusted for inflation) of what his or her parents paid to attend college just 30 years ago.

Total outstanding student loan debt now stands at a “staggering $1.2 trillion,” she said -- and the government will earn $66 billion in profit on student loans made between 2007 and 2013. Those are profits "that would make a Fortune 500 CEO proud," Warren said.

Warren said to reverse the trend of student borrowing, “we need to bring down the cost of college.”

She didn't say how lawmakers can bring down the cost of college, but she said she will work "closely" with her colleagues who are "intensely focused on this issue."

"Tying students to a lifetime of financial servitude as a condition of getting an education does not reflect our values. These students didn't go to the mall to run up charges on a credit card. They worked hard and learned new skills that will benefit this country and help us build a stronger middle class and help us build a stronger America. They deserve our support. They don’t deserve to be buried in debt,” Warren said.