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Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill to cancel student debt — does it have any chance of passing?

Her plan to abolish most student debt has been put before Congress. But does it have any chance of passing?

Elizabeth Warren at a forum hosted by AFSCME.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
  • Elizabeth Warren made a major policy announcement about education back in April.
  • The cornerstone of her announcement, student debt relief, has now been put before congress.
  • The bill currently has no chance of passage, but that could change if the people who support it actually voted.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the candidate who set the pace in the race to tackle the student debt crisis, has introduced the plan she touted back in April to Congress.

It's now a bill, yes it is now a bill, and it's sitting there on Capitol Hill….

The bill, titled the "Student Loan Debt Relief Act of 2019," would do exactly what it says. Student loan forgiveness was a major part of her proposed educational policy reforms she issued a few months ago. For those who forgot, we explained the bill here. If you don't feel like clicking that link, that's fine, we'll summarize the debt plan here:

Warren's plan to end the student debt crisis would forgive up to $50,000 worth of student debt for borrowers who make less than $100,000 a year. People earning between $100,000 and $250,000 would have their debt forgiven on a sliding scale that declines by $1 for every $3 made over the hundred grand mark. This hits zero at $250,000, and nobody making more than that would get any relief.

This would still forgive all the debt for 33 million people — this is about 75 percent of all student loan borrowers. Another 10 million borrowers would see some measure of relief under the plan. It would include both public and private debt, a potential boon to those with high debt, low-quality educations.

This bill does not, however, get into the other parts of her education plan and sticks to debt relief.

Is there any chance this passes any time soon?

Not really.

The bill has no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate. Worse, higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz told CNBC that it would likely have difficulties getting through the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives when they get a look at the price tag. A quick check on the bill shows it has made no progress in either chamber since being introduced. The GovTrack website gives it a 2 percent chance of becoming a law, which seems generous.

The idea is popular with voters; a recent poll indicated 56 percent of Americans supported the plan and funding it with higher taxes on the rich. Even more impressive is that only 27 percent of people outright opposed the idea. If this support will translate to eventual passage is another question.

What are other candidates planning on doing?

Other plans to deal with the crisis exist too, though they all go in their own directions.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D–VT) went even further than Elizabeth Warren and proposed that all student debt be canceled for everybody — including the super-rich. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has a smaller plan that would forgive up to $20,000 in debt for those who started a business in a disadvantaged community and kept it running for at least three years.

Joe Biden has expressed support for expanding the public service loan forgiveness program, but his history in making student debt harder to get rid of may permanently tarnish his campaign's perceived ability to address the problem.

While her bill may not have much of a chance of passing right now, it still marks a serious chance in how Americans view the student loan crisis and higher education in general. A mere few years ago the idea of free higher education was a left-wing pipe dream, now it is serious, widely-supported policy that sits before congress.

Even if it doesn't pass, that is a victory in and of itself for changing sentiments.

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