Sens. Sanders, Warren Cheer Biden's Student Loan Relief: 'Make Public Colleges and Universities Tuition-Free'

Susan Jones | August 29, 2022 | 5:22am EDT
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Student activists in New York City demand free tuition and cancellation of student debt. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Student activists in New York City demand free tuition and cancellation of student debt. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Two of the Senate's most liberal members say President Biden's decision to wipe out student loan payments for millions of borrowers is an example of government working for "working people."

Both Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) say debt forgiveness was the right thing to do, and they both advocate making public colleges and universities tuition-free:

Sanders told ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos:

"Look, I know it is shocking, George, to some Republicans that the government actually, on occasion, does something to benefit working families and low-income people.

"I don't hear any of these Republicans squawking when we give massive tax breaks to billionaires, when we have an effective tax rate today such that the 1 percent are having a lower effective tax rate than working people. We have major corporations in a given year don't pay a nickel in federal taxes. That's OK. But suddenly when we do something for working people, it is a terrible idea.

"I was in Boston last week and I was talking to nurses. And these nurses were telling me that they are working in some cases two jobs, outrages hours, partly in order to pay for the student debts that they have accumulated.

"So, in my view, the president did the right thing and we have got to be really thinking about higher education in general. And, in my view, at a time when hundreds of thousands of bright, young people can't even afford to go to college, if we're going to be competitive in a global economy, we need to make public colleges and universities tuition-free."

Sanders rejected the argument that forgiving debt for some students is unfair to others who made their payments, or who didn't go to college because they didn't want to take on debt:

"Well, the truth is, in a sense that criticism is correct, but the answer is not to deny help to people who cannot deal with these horrendous student debts, who were delaying getting married, delaying even having children. The answer is that maybe, just maybe, we want to have a government that works for all working people and not just the people on top," Sanders said.

"So the answer is not to do what Republicans want to do is, like, 'Oh, it's unfair to this person because we're helping that person.' The answer is maybe to create a government where -- which works for all people and not just for wealthy campaign contributors."

'This is about America investing in people who work hard'

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Warren said, "I am so happy to see what has happened."

"I recognize that, right now, hard-working families, middle-class families, working-class families have gotten some real relief. Think about it this way. Most of the relief that the president has given -- remember, the majority of people are going to get $20,000 in student loan debt relief; 40 percent of the folks who have student loans do not have a college diploma, four-year diploma.

"These are people who are truck drivers and who are nail technicians and nurses' aides. They are actually going to get their debt canceled out. And that means they're going to be able to build stronger futures for themselves and for their children.

"This is about America investing in people who work hard, who play by the rules, and who just need a government on their side. And Joe Biden has done what Joe Biden does best. He has delivered for working families."

On the question of fairness, Warren said, "I think a lot about fairness. And I think about how education debt is different from other debt."

Warren noted that she was able to attend a public university that she says cost her only $50 a semester. She said that education opportunity "opened a million doors for me," but "that opportunity is not out there today for any of our kids.

"Our public education system is no longer creating opportunities for kids like me and other kids whose families can't afford to write a check. Instead, we're saying to these young people, you have got to get an education, but we are going to wrap the chains of debt around you.

“And, for many, you're going to be paying it for decades into the future, including getting Social Security checks garnished. That's not the America we want. We want to be an America of opportunity."

Warren said the cost of college must be dealt with "directly." "And the Democrats have put multiple plans on the table. I have got a bill right now on college transparency, to bring down costs," she said.

Warren in 2019 urged the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans.

"Once we’ve cleared out the debt that’s holding down an entire generation of Americans, we must ensure that we never have another student debt crisis again," she wrote on Medium.com.

She wrote that the next step is "universal free college," which means giving "every American the opportunity to attend a two-year or four-year public college without paying a dime in tuition or fees."

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