(CNN)Sen. Bernie Sanders offered up a plan on Monday to completely eliminate the student loan debt of every American, staking out uncharted territory in the Democratic presidential primary.
The new legislation would cancel $1.6 trillion of student loan undergraduate and graduate debt for approximately 45 million people. His ambitious plan has no eligibility limitations and would be paid for with a new tax on Wall Street speculation.
The proposal goes further than the plan previously unveiled by his Democratic primary rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Her debt relief package was subject to income eligibility levels to determine how much relief the average person would receive — parameters that Warren said were aimed at closing the racial wealth gap.
Under the Sanders plan, if you have student debt of any kind it would be canceled the second the legislation is signed into law.
“This proposal completely eliminates student debt in this country and ends the absurdity of sentencing an entire generation, the millennial generation, to a lifetime of debt for the crime of doing the right thing — and that is going out and getting a higher education,” Sanders, flanked by activists and supporters, said at a news conference in Washington on Monday.
On the stump and in interviews, Sanders has long spoken about finding ways to relieve the burden of student debt, but this this is his most specific plan to date. He teased the announcement during an event in South Carolina on Saturday night.
“We are going to forgive student debt in this country,” Sanders said last weekend. “We have for the first time in the modern history of this country a younger generation that if we don’t change it, and we intend to change it, will have a lower standard of living than their parents, more in debt, lower wages than their parents, unable to buy the house that they desire.”The plan is part of a more comprehensive “college for all” program that Sanders has already released in pieces and includes free tuition at all four-year public colleges and universities, as well as community colleges.
The broader proposal also includes subsidies to reduce the cost of tuition and fees for low income students at private colleges that historically serve underrepresented communities.
“We will make a full and complete education a human right in America, to which all of our people are entitled,” Sanders said on Monday. “This means making public colleges, universities and HBCUs tuition-free and debt-free by tripling the work study program, expanding Pell grants and other financial incentives.”
Sanders also talked about his detailed roadmap — centered on new taxes on Wall Street — to raise the $2.2 trillion dollars necessary to pay for this program and his other college funding plans. It will include a 0.5% tax on stock trades (or 50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. Sanders believes that could raise more than $2.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years.