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Bernie Sanders’ plan to eliminate all student debt is refreshing

Fox News would happily lead you to believe that Bernie Sanders, if elected to the White House in 2020, would move to seize all the means of production within his first hundred days in office, the ardent communist that he is. This, I suspect, will not trouble Sanders in the slightest; the Vermont Senator’s newest pledge will have done nothing to warm the hearts of conservatives across the United States.

In the final week of June, Sanders introduced new legislation which would eliminate US student debt in its entirety, freeing 45 million American graduates from the shackles of debt. Even by Sanders’ standards, this policy – if it ever became enshrined in US law – is a “revolutionary proposal”, which, according to the Democratic presidential hopeful, would accomplish three major goals.

Speaking outside the US Capitol, flanked by congressional colleagues Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jaypal, Sanders claimed that his proposal would make sure “that all Americans, regardless of income, can get the college education or job training they need to secure decent-paying jobs by making public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free and debt-free.”

Warren and Sanders have, thus far, produced the most detailed propositions, and – perhaps predictably – Republicans have criticised their plans due to the costs involved in implementing such “revolutionary” schemes

In 2016, the promise of “free college tuition” became the cornerstone of the Sanders campaign and it remains a priority as he faces increasingly tough competition to secure the Democratic nomination from Elizabeth Warren, his nearest ideological rival.

Sanders’ plan is certainly more ambitious than the alternative proposed by the Massachusetts Senator, who has built momentum in the primary race by gradually proposing new policy ideas. Warren’s offer would cancel most student loan debt, also eliminating undergraduate tuition fees at public colleges and universities. Under a Warren administration, $50,000 in student loan debt would be eliminated for every person with a household income of less than $100,000 per annum.

Student debt and the cost of higher education has become a key issue in the Democratic primary, with the majority of leading candidates addressing it some form. Warren and Sanders have, thus far, produced the most detailed propositions, and – perhaps predictably – Republicans have criticised their plans due to the costs involved in implementing such “revolutionary” schemes.

The Trump administration has been especially adverse to considering any student-friendly reforms to higher education in the United States; since the appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, the federal education department has rejected 99% of applications requesting student debt annulment.

If Sanders’ approach was implemented, it would see $1.6 trillion of student debt eliminated, costing the federal government an expected $2.2 trillion over the next decade

Sanders’ new approach to student debt is, so far, the most progressive policy announcement of the campaign so far. If Sanders’ approach was implemented, it would see $1.6 trillion of student debt eliminated, costing the federal government an expected $2.2 trillion over the next decade. Sanders’ plan to fund his debt-elimination strategy through a ‘Wall Street Tax’ has once again left the Vermont senator open to criticism that a Sanders White House would be anti-business, a fear that moderate Democrats will seek to stoke during the primary race.

To a certain extent, the achievability of the pledge is redundant as it has already achieved something spectacular in the post-truth, populist era of US politics. At the very least, Sanders’ promise to abolish student debt has helped to place the concerns of young voters at the heart of US politics – where they should surely be.

Whether you love or loathe Bernie Sanders’ politics, his student-focussed message must, at the very least, be somewhat refreshing amid the current political climate. As politicians in the UK bicker about the best way of removing our freedom of movement around the European Union – limiting our opportunities to work, study and live abroad – Sanders’ enthusiasm for young-issues is inspiring.

Remember, Sanders doesn’t need to win the young vote, he already has it. Once again, Sanders is trying to go the extra mile for young voters. He might not win, but at least he tried.

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