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Elizabeth Warren introduces a calculator for her student debt forgiveness plan

Posted at 5:29 PM, May 03, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is promoting an online calculator that shows voters just how much -- exactly -- they'd benefit from her proposal to cancel outstanding student loans.

Speaking Friday at Iowa State University, the Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential hopeful asked people to take out their phones and plug their debt amounts into the calculator , which is available on her campaign's website.

"Anybody in here have student loan debt? Anybody in here know someone with student loan debt? Okay, I think we got almost everybody," the Massachusetts Democrat said.

The calculator, she added, is "a way to make real to people what it means to talk about student loan debt cancellation."

Warren released her loan forgiveness plan last week, which she says would be paid for by her proposed wealth tax . Her campaign estimates that the one-time debt cancellation would cost $640 billion.

Warren's plan would cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for anyone from households earning less than $100,000 a year. For those Americans, the calculation is simple.

But the amount of relief gets gradually smaller as income level goes up. Households that make more than $250,000 would not be eligible for any debt relief.

Warren is also proposing to make tuition free at public two- and four-year college for all students, regardless of their family's income. She wants to increase federal funding for Pell grants, which are awarded to low-income families, as well as invest more money in historically black colleges and universities. The senator also is calling for a ban on for-profit colleges receiving any federal funding.

There is broad support among the Democratic presidential candidates for making college more affordable, though they differ on how to achieve that goal.

Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York -- along with Warren -- are all co-sponsors of Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz's Debt-Free College Act. It would establish a matching grant to states that commit to helping students pay for the full cost of attendance without taking out loans.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who helped bring the idea mainstream during his 2016 presidential bid, has introduced his own bill which would make tuition and fees free at public colleges for students whose families earn less than $125,000.

But other candidates -- including Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- have stopped short of embracing a free-college platform.