White House Contender Warren Sees Path to Cancel Student Loan Debt Without Congress

Democrat Elizabeth Warren outlined on Tuesday how, if elected to the White House, she would on the first day of her presidency cancel federal student loan debt by using the Department of Education’s pre-existing authority.

Warren had previously called for the cancellation of up to $50,000 in student loan debt for each of about 42 million borrowers, but had not outlined the specific steps she would take or the timing.

Warren, writing on the website Medium, said that she would act without waiting for Congress because the Secretary of Education can “use its discretion to wipe away loans even when they do not meet the eligibility criteria for more specific cancellation programs.”

Her campaign offered a letter from experts at Harvard Law School’s legal services center that concluded her plan “calls for a lawful and permissible exercise of the Secretary’s authority under existing law.”

Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, detailed her latest proposal ahead of the seventh Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday evening, when she will be one of six candidates on stage.

Twelve Democrats remain in the nominating race to take on President Donald Trump in November 2020. National opinion polls show Warren in the top tier but trailing former Vice President Joe Biden and fellow U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. She has attempted in recent weeks to regain the momentum her campaign showed during the summer, with nominating contests set to begin in Iowa in early February.

Throughout her year-long presidential campaign, Warren has emphasized affordable college tuition as a way to reduce economic and racial inequality. In April, she rolled out a comprehensive plan to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for borrowers with annual household incomes below $100,000, with some cancellation for those with household incomes between $100,000 and $250,000.

Warren said on Tuesday that the Higher Education Act, a law passed in 1965, gives the Education Department the ability to act as a “safety valve” for federal student loan programs.

Just 43% of students who attended two-year public colleges and 34% who attended for-profit colleges that began loan repayment in 2011 had begun paying down the principal after five years, Warren said.

Warren, in her proposals and speeches, often ties the high cost of U.S. higher education to decreasing home ownership rates among young adults, fewer individuals starting small businesses, and the so-called “brain drain” facing some rural areas.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)


  1. Lizzie,

    You are asking American taxpayers to “invest” in those who have failed to make enough to make it on their own. The Constitution guarantees freedom, not shielding from its consequences. Consider speech, where it’s still “free”.

    What guarantees can you provide that this investment of tax dollars are worthwhile? People make bad choices all the time. Will you reimburse people who “invest” in scratch-offs or lottery tickets? What about bad stock picks or Las Vegas?

    You should be able to answer all of these questions as a founder of the CPFB. P.E.R.S.O.N.A.L responsibility and consequences. Or is that too much freedom for you?

  2. Charge the colleges which have HUGE (billions) in endowments. Make them pay to lessen the debts of their suckers, err, students.

    Funny how the “freebie” Socialists want to soak taxpayers BUT NOT the institutions who literally enable these debts.

  3. Lizzie here’s a non-Harvard faculty solution. You DID come up with the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau scheme. Are not students and their parents consumers? Too tough for you? Too close to home?

  4. lizzy your socialism is showing. your idea is great for the people who took out the loans, but now the taxpayers get to pay for them. why not just revamp the loans system. how about stop charging interest on top of interest. if you pay just the minimal payment, after 10 years you owe more than what the loan started at. because of interest on top of interest. plus didn’t b.o. bail them out once already? how about giving anyone paying student loans tax breaks on the student loans?

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