Bernie’s Free College Plan To Forgive All Student Loans

On Monday, June 24th, Bernie Sanders unveiled his 2020 Presidential Election plan for dealing with student loan debt, which included a promise to cancel ALL $1.6 trillion of outstanding student loans, including BOTH Federal AND Private debt.

Bernie’s debt forgiveness plan is the single most comprehensive student loan reform proposal ever introduced, and in my opinion, the best option I’ve ever heard of for dealing with the growing student loan debt crisis.

If you have student loans, and especially if you’re having trouble dealing with them, then you need to take a long, hard look at both Bernie’s proposal, and you should seriously consider voting for him in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Here’s a quote from Bernie himself about his new plan for student debt:

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… Under the proposal that we introduced today, all student debt would be cancelled in six months.”

What exactly is Bernie’s Proposal, when would it start issuing debt relief, and how would it be funded? Read on to find out!

Basic Tenets of Bernie’s Student Loan Debt Cancellation Program

Here’s the most important elements of Bernie Sanders’s student loan debt relief proposal:

  • Bernie’s plan seeks to cancel ALL student loans, including both Federal and Private student debt, and Undergraduate and Graduate student debt
  • Bernie’s plan comes with ZERO eligibility restrictions, meaning it doesn’t matter how old your loans are, how much you’ve paid back, how much you earn, or anything else of that nature
  • Bernie’s plan is supposed to be funded by a new tax on Wall Street, which will add a small cost to all financial transactions involving stocks, bonds, etc.

To be perfectly honest, this is the single most revolutionary proposal I’ve seen in the 10+ years I’ve been following the student loan industry, and I am totally behind Bernie’s plan because I think it’s the only way we can dig ourselves out of the massive student loan debt crisis.

But how does Bernie’s proposal compare to Elizabeth Warren’s plan, and to the other 2020 Presidential Candidates’s proposals?

Before We Get Into That…

Let me first make one thing perfectly clear – even if Bernie does get elected President AND he is able to get his student loan plan passed by Congress, the soonest that it could start helping you is the Summer of 2021.

If you’ve got existing student loans that are causing you serious financial trouble now, then you should be researching existing options for dealing with them, because 2021 is a long ways away, and the odds of Bernie getting elected really aren’t all that good.

If you're truly struggling with student debt, then you should also consider paying a Student Loan Debt Relief Agency for help. Why? Because the people working at these companies deal with student loans all day, every day, and they're your best chance at figuring out how to get your loans back under control.

I've interviewed all sorts of debt relief agencies over the past 10 years, talking to all sorts of so-called "experts", and I can tell you that in all honesty I've only found two companies I trust to offer actual financial relief to people struggling with student loans.

For help with FEDERAL Student Loans: Call the Student Loan Relief Helpline at 1-888-906-3065. They will review your case, evaluate your options for switching repayment plans, consolidating your loans, or pursuing forgiveness benefits, then set you up to get rid of the debt as quickly as possible.

For help with PRIVATE Student Loans: Call McCarthy Law PLC at 1-877-317-0455. They will negotiate with your lender to settle your private loans for much less than you owe, then get you a new loan for the much lower, settled amount. NOTE: McCarthy Law can ONLY help with Private student loans.

If you do decide to call one of these companies and you have a bad experience with either of them, PLEASE make sure to come back and let me know about it in the Comments!

Elizabeth Warren’s Student Loan Debt Plan

If you’ve been following my site these past few months, then you’ll probably have noticed I’ve been promoting Elizabeth Warren pretty hard, as her student loan debt forgiveness proposal was by far the best we’d seen, up until now.

For the full details on what Senator Warren promised to do, please visit my Guide to Elizabeth Warren’s Student Loan Debt Proposal, but for a quick overview on what she suggested, here’s the basic tenets of her own plan:

  • Elizabeth Warren’s plan would immediately eliminate up to $50,000 in student loan debt for anyone living in a household that makes less than $100,000 per year
  • Elizabeth Warren’s plan offers a flexible level of debt relief (between $0 and $50,000) to anyone living in a household that makes between $100,000 – $250,000 per year
  • Elizabeth Warren’s plan won’t require anyone to pay taxes on any debt forgiveness that they receive, so there is literally zero cost to the recipients of the benefit
  • Elizabeth Warren’s plan offers these benefits to both borrowers with Federal student loans or Private student loans
  • Elizabeth Warren’s plan includes suggestions for streamlining the approvals process for existing Federal Forgiveness, Discharge and Relief Programs, like BDAR, PSLF, Closed School Discharges, etc.

Now, just to be clear about one thing, let’s all make sure that we understand Elizabeth Warren’s proposal was revolutionary as well, and at the time she submitted it, it was the single most comprehensive solution ever proposed for dealing with student loans.

But… now that Bernie’s plan has arrived, and we can see that it goes much, much further than Senator Warren’s, you should expect to see much more Bernie-promoting on the pages of this site.

How Does Bernie’s Proposal Compare to Elizabeth Warren’s?

In a nutshell, both Bernie and Elizabeth Warren want to reduce student loans, significantly, and both want to help with Federal and Private loans, but Bernie’s plan seeks to go way further than Senator Warren’s.

First, Bernie is willing to give debt relief to everyone, whereas Elizabeth Warren is only offering it to people with a household income under $250,000, and she’s offering very little debt relief to people who have a household income approaching that level (the more money you make, the less debt relief you receive).

Second, Elizabeth Warren is offering a one-time write off of up to $50,000 in debt cancellation benefits, which is huge, and excellent, but Bernie is offering a one-time write off of ALL outstanding student loan debt, no matter how much you owe, which could be much, much more than Elizabeth Warren’s $50,000 offer.

Obviously, Bernie’s plan would go much further in eliminating the massive student loan debt crisis, and it will be especially more beneficial to those borrowers with excessive levels of debt, because the more you owe, the more Bernie’s plan will help!

What is Bernie’s “Free College Plan”?

If you thought that Bernie was just looking to get rid of EXISTING student loans, then I’ve got some good news for you, because he wants to bring the entire student loan system down completely, as he’s also proposed making all higher education entirely free to everyone.

The Free College Plan was introduced several years back, during the 2016 Election Cycle, and included some really important proposals that show his thinking as he approached the student loan debt crisis, and sought to come up with creative solutions for dealing with it, like:

  • Making all public schools “tuition-free”
  • “Fully funding” historically black schools
  • “Substantially lowering” student loan debt
  • “Significant lowering” student loan interest rates

Obviously, now that we’ve seen Bernie’s new, official Student Loan Debt Platform for the 2020 Election, we can tell that it’s gone way beyond what he was discussing in 2016, and that it’s basically the best thing anyone could possibly promise, since it would officially END the student loan system, and quickly!

One thing I also want to point out is that several months back when I originally wrote my speculation piece about Bernie’s anticipated 2020 platform, I mentioned that he would probably need to offer much more this election cycle because of Senator Warren’s comprehensive plan, and I am quite pleased to have been correct about that prediction.

Now, since all the details about his new plan haven’t been released yet, let’s look back at the previous 6 Step Free College Plan he presented to see if we can get a better feel for what the fine print will look like.

Details of the Bernie Sanders Six-Step Free College Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders’s Free College Plan plan includes six key tenets, each of which would dramatically reduce the cost of a college education, either by reducing the amount that must be paid for tuition and fees up front, or by cutting the expenses after the fact, once debt has already been accumulated.

    Core Tenets of the 6-Step Free College Plan

  1. Make Tuition Free at Public Colleges and Universities
  2. Prevent the Federal Government from Profiting on Student Loans
  3. Cut Student Loan Interest Rates
  4. Let Americans Refinance Student Loan Debt at Historic Low Interest Rates
  5. Give College Students Access to Need-Based Financial Aid and Work Study Programs
  6. Pay for this Program by Imposing a New Tax on Wall Street Speculators

This plan includes help for ALL Americans who funded their college education costs with Federal student loans, and that he doesn’t appear willing to leave anyone behind.

This was a good sign that Bernie’s proposal for the 2020 election would offer similar relief to everybody, not just some tiny slice of heavily impoverished borrowers, and now that we’ve finally seen his submission, I’m happy to report that he followed through on that promise, offering debt relief benefits to everybody.

Great Bernie Quotes About Student Loans

Bernie’s been talking about the student loan debt problem for many years now, and over the past decade, he’s shared some excellent thoughts about the crisis, the reasons we’re mired in it, and options for resolving it, including:

The bottom line is we shouldn’t be punishing people for getting to higher education. It is time to hit the rest button. Under the proposal that we introduced today, all student debt would be canceled in six months.

We are going to forgive student debt in this country. We have for the first time in the modern history of this country a younger generation… that will have a lower standard of living than their parents, more in debt, lower wages… unable to buy the house that they desire.

We will make a full and complete education a human right in America, to which all of our people are entitled. 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.

It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades.

My Thoughts on Bernie’s Plan

If you’re like me, you might have even had to take a deep breath after reading through the list of things Bernie has proposed, because it’s the same sort of ideas I’ve been promoting on this very site for YEARS!

To be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of everything that Bernie Sanders has to say, but I find his new Student Loan Cancellation Plan and his old Free College Plan to be so compelling that I can’t help but support it, and him.

Now, before we leave, let’s review each of the 6 tenets from his Free College Plan in detail, because going through these will help you get a better understanding of how things may turn out if Bernie does, in fact, get elected.

1. Make Tuition Free at Public Colleges and Universities

Bernie’s proposal to make tuition free at all public colleges and universities (which means all state colleges and universities) is not an entirely new idea.

In fact, it’s based on the historic precedent set by Germany, who eliminated college tuition entirely because they believed that the $1,300 annual fee they were requiring for attending college was discouraging their people from receiving higher education.

Could you imagine how many more Americans would be able to go to college if it only cost $1,300 a year? Just think about how much more discretionary income you would have if your total student loan costs were based on a $1,300 per year tuition rate.

In an economy powered by consumer spending, how much more money would be getting pumped back into housing, transportation, and consumer goods, rather than getting funneled into the pockets of bankers and corporations, who do little but hoard the cash for their own self-interest?

And just so you realize that Bernie is not alone in this measure, it’s also reported that Chile is about to make college free for its citizens next year, and that Finland, Norway, Sweden and several other countries have been offering the same to their citizens for many years.

Bernie asks: if these countries can afford to make college free for their citizens, then why can’t the United States?

What’s more, Bernie’s website relays that some American colleges and universities used to be free! In fact, the world-renowned University of California system offered free tuition at its top-ranked schools all the way until the 1980’s! As a graduate of the University of California at San Diego, I can’t tell you how badly I wish they would have kept that program running…

Probably the best part about this part of the plan is that all the crazy rules and regulations governing Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Programs would basically be thrown out the window for future college graduates, since they would be avoid the avoid the current process of racking up a mountain of debt that one hopes will get “forgiven” at a later date.

2. Prevent the Federal Government from Profiting on Student Loans

According to current projections, the Federal Government is set to make a profit of over $110 BILLION dollars on the student loan programs over the next 10 years.

Bernie Sanders’s stance on student loans is that this is not just morally wrong, but also bad economics. To address this problem, the Sanders Free College Plan proposes to prevent the Federal Government from profiteering from student loans, and seeks to use those former profits instead to significantly lower student loan interest rates.

In my opinion, there’s really no reason that the Government should be profiting from offering us, the taxpayers who fund all of their work, the services that we’ve deemed important.

The Government’s role isn’t to come up with more money, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be run like a private entity or corporation. It collects money from public taxes, then distributes those tax dollars via services and assistance programs, like student loans which help citizens pay for college expenses.

Why should the Government get to collect taxes from us, then make money loaning that tax money back to us? Why not cut out the middleman entirely (the Federal Government), and simply allow us to self-fund college costs without the added layer of tax collection and distribution?

If Bernie’s plan were enacted, immediate benefits could be realized by dividing up that $110 Billion equally, and offering an instant $2,750 reduction in student loan debt for the 40 million Americans currently paying off their college costs.

But that sounds like something that George W. Bush would do (remember his famous tax credit?). Bernie’s got an even better idea in mind, and one that will end up saving all of us significantly more than the initial $2,750 we could get from an instant refund.

3. Cut Student Loan Interest Rates

Instead of offering a one-time $2,750 debt forgiveness tax credit, Senator Sanders’s plan seeks to reduce the long-term costs of financing student loans by reducing student loan interest rates.

And that’s a great thing for anyone carrying student loan debt of any amount, because interest rate reduction is probably the best thing that could ever happen to reduce our total debt load.

Since student loan borrowers plan on paying their debt off over a long period of time (10, 15, 20, or even 30+ years), interest is the primary enemy, since it allows that debt to accumulate and grow.

In fact, for most borrowers that owe far more than they can possibly afford to ever pay back, interest rates are the primary reason that they’re in trouble, because interest is the factor that allows debt to grow to excessive amounts so quickly.

There is simply no better way to reduce excessive student loan debt than by lowering its interest rate, and Senator Sanders’s plan has made that a core component of the proposed student loan reforms.

If you’re one of the people who owes just as much, or even more than you originally borrowed, you can thank the artificially inflated student loan interest rates for that problem, and you should be a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders Free College Plan.

If the Sanders Free College Plan is enacted into law, rapidly expanding student loan debt may become a thing of the past, and you may actually be able to get out of student loan debt.

4. Let Americans Refinance Student Loan Debt at Historic Low Interest Rates

As outlined above, interest rates are what make student loan debt such a problem, so this tenet of the Sanders plan is perhaps the most important.

In the history of the United States of America, there has never been a better time to borrow money, because the prevailing interest rate is lower than its ever been before.

Have you heard about people getting 30 year mortgages with an interest rate of just 3%? Are you aware that people are getting auto loans with 0% interest?

Could you imagine how much money you’d save on your monthly student loan payments if you were able to refinance your loans to a similar rate?

Federal student loans currently come with an interest around 5-7%, which is significantly higher than what could be provided, especially considering how cheap it is to borrow money for other high-value purchases like homes, cars, etc.

And while you’re allowed to change your Federal Student Loan Repayment Plan to rearrange the structure of how long it’ll take you to pay off your loans, choosing even increments, payments based on annual income, and a number of other variables, there’s no option for changing your loan’s interest rate.

Unfortunately, the interest rate is the most important component of the calculation that determines how much you’ll end up paying over the life of your loan, so it’s the single most important factor for helping you get out of debt!

Under Senator Sanders’s Free College Plan, Americans will be able to refinance their student loans and take advantage of historically low interest rates.

If you’re having trouble meeting your monthly payments, then this is the most important part of Senator Sanders’s plan for you, and one that you should ardently support.

5. Give College Students Access to Need-Based Financial Aid and Work Study Programs

This is the one tenet of Bernie’s Free College Plan that I’m not so sure about. I love the idea of helping people afford the cost of college, but I always disagree with the idea of giving anyone something for free (which Sanders, as a self-proclaimed Socialist, seems to be in favor of).

This part of his plan would require public colleges and universities to provide for 100% of the financial needs of the lowest-income students (but “lowest-income students” is not defined in the plan, so what does that even mean? Is it the lowest 1%? 10% 25%?).

I do like and fully support Bernie’s idea of making it possible for low-income students to more easily pay for their college costs by tripling the Federal work study program, which offers a sort of stipend for essentially volunteer labor, promoting the idea that nothing is free in this world, but I’m not a huge fan of the proposal to simply give away Federal, state and college financial aid for room and board, books and living expenses simply because someone is poor, and without requiring some form of work from them to earn the benefit.

Trading hours spent in the work study program for coverage of college tuition and fees sounds like a great idea to me, and a logical extension of the best currently existing Federal forgiveness program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

I especially like this part of the proposal, as it’ll help better prepare new graduates for the workplace, and encourage them to get involved with the real world while they’re attending school.

The fewer college students who spend their time partying or endlessly philosophizing, and more who engage with the workforce, the better off our country will be in the long run.

6. Pay for this Program by Imposing a New Tax on Wall Street Speculators

Personally, my favorite part of the Sanders Free College plan is the idea that it’ll be paid for by imposing a new tax (a so-called “Robin Hood Tax”) on Wall Street speculators, who Bernie says are responsible for nearly destroying the economy in 2007.

This plan is estimated to cost $75 billion per year, and Bernie’s website states that it can be fully paid for by imposing a tax of just a fraction of a percent on Wall Street.

Apparently, this plan has even been endorsed by over 1,000 economists, and is similar to a tax that Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland and even China have all required on speculative investments. In Bernie’s own words:

If the taxpayers of this country could bailout Wall Street in 2008, we can make public colleges and universities tuition free and debt free throughout the country.

My Thoughts on the Sanders Free College Plan

Depending on which channel you prefer, the response to Sanders Free College Plan has been vastly different. Those listening to Fox News will hear it treated like a joke, or some kind of Communist plan to destroy the country, while those who prefer MSNBC are likely to hear it touted as the next best thing since sliced bread.

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. Parts of Senator Sanders’s plan are exceptional ideas, while others, I’m not as excited about.

Personally, I would love to see Student Loan Interest Rate Refinancing become a reality, especially since it’s never been made possible for Federal loans. A couple years back, Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed a similar measure, but it was held up in Congress by special interests, specifically lobbyists from major banks and student loan companies.

And while I think that Senator Sanders plan is probably the best one floated by any of the remaining 2016 Presidential Candidates, I’m also extremely discouraged that it doesn’t include a bit of assistance or relief for those holding private student loan debt.

Simply put, Private Student Loan Debt Forgiveness is where the real problem lies, because it’s the holders of private student loan debt who are suffering the most.

And again, just like when President Obama enacted his own sweeping student loan reforms, even Bernie Sanders, the Socialist hero, has left those who need assistance most dearly out in the cold.

When will the politicians wake up to the fact that it’s PRIVATE student loan debt which is destroying the financial lives of so many Americans? Is it simply a non-starter, because the special interest lobby is too powerful, or are they truly that oblivious to the reality of the situation?

Perhaps Bernie Sanders’s Free College Plan is simply the start of something new, and he’s getting off on the right foot by attacking the easiest target, but I wish he had added a seventh point to his proposal that dealt with private student loans, especially considering how badly many of my readers need assistance with that specific problem.

NPR’s Assessment of the Sanders Free College Plan

It could be argued that NPR is one of the most “Fair & Balanced” news sources currently available to ordinary Americans, so I want to include a review of their appraisal of Senator Sanders’s plan.

Assuming that Bernie is able to get all six tenets of his proposal enacted, how does NPR think things will turn out for the country? In short, they’ve completely missed the point!

In a recent article titled “Fact-Check: Bernie Sanders Promises Free College. Will it Work?”, NPR slams the Sanders Plan, stating that it is unlikely to give the United States “the most educated workforce in the world.”

But is that really the point? Does anyone even believe that the motivation behind Bernie Sanders’s plan is to make America the most educated? Can’t we all agree that this has little to do with actual education, and far more to do with excessive student loan debt?

Feel free to check out their article by clicking through the link above, but remember that like many of the other Media outlets currently analyzing the Sanders Free College Plan, even NPR has failed to understand the genesis behind Bernie’s proposal.

This plan is not about creating a highly educated workforce, which would be better served by enacting major education reforms, and getting away from an educational system that was developed while the workforce still sat in factories performing repetitive behaviors to produce manufactured goods, and which is now completely outdated to the needs of modern companies and businesses.

If the objective were to make Americans the most competitive workforce on the planet, does anyone even really think that the existing college and university system is the best way to provide for that? In my opinion, only a fool could believe in such a fairy tale.

CNN’s Response to the Sanders Free College Plan

Another bastion of the “liberal media” (if you’re to believe the pundits on Fox News) took aim at Bernie Sanders’s Free College Plan, and similarly to NPR, screwed the pooch by creating another straw man argument and attacking the plan for all the wrong reasons.

Instead of focusing on the pros and cons of the six proposed tenets, CNN created a hit piece to discredit Bernie Sanders by attacking his proposal for being incapable of delivering on it’s core promise: providing free college for all.

Rather than discussing the merits of the idea of reducing college tuition rates, allowing Federal student loan debt to be refinanced, and expanding work study programs for poverty-stricken students, CNN chose to attack the idea that the “Robin Hood tax” could fully pay for the proposal.

This much is clear from the article’s first line:

Free college for all may sound appealing, but it’s not as simple as Bernie Sanders makes it out to be.

So what? Even if the Robin Hod tax won’t be enough to cover the costs of the Sanders plan, is that really the thing that we should be focusing on?

When it seemed like the Media was finally taking up the clarion call to support those holding excessive student loans, now that we’ve finally got a champion, outlets across the political spectrum have begun chipping away at the solution we’ve all been waiting for!

What’s worse, these “Liberal” outlets aren’t treating the proposal fairly by discussing it’s pros and cons, but are instead creating side discussions to shoot it down by attacking incremental issues, like the fact that it won’t create the most educated workforce, or that it won’t be fully paid for by the new tax, etc.

It’s time like these that Bill Clinton’s old campaign phrase: “It’s the Economy Stupid” comes ringing back to my ears, except that it needs to be modified to read instead: “It’s the DEBT Stupid”, and followed by an extensive series of exclamation marks.

What the Media Keeps Getting Wrong

What the Media simply cannot seem to grasp (or won’t grasp, thanks to their ties to corporate financiers and special interest lobbyists, is that Bernie’s Free College Plan is NOT about Education, but about DEBT!

And until the Media stands up to their corporate overlords, you’re likely to see further examples of this serious problem.

Both the Right AND the Left will continue to attack the Sanders Free College Plan, addressing minor issues related to small portions of the proposal, instead of realizing that IT’S THE DEBT, STUPID!

What Do You Think?

Now that you’re familiar with the plan, and it’s criticisms, what do you think about the proposal? Would you support Bernie Sanders in his mission to make college free, and to reduce student loan debt loads across the country?

Or is this truly the work of a sinister Socialist/Communist plot to bankrupt American society and destroy our children’s brains by exposing them to the liberal elite at snobby colleges and universities across the country, eroding the very fabric of our once-great Capitalist society?

See how easy it is to discredit the plan without even addressing it’s core tenets? Tread cautiously, dear reader, for thou art under attack by the powers who prefer the status quo remain in place.

Read between the lines, and be sure to think for yourself.

Need Help With Your Student Loans?

No matter what happens with Bernie’s Presidential Election run, one thing I do want to make eminently clear is that there are all sorts of excellent student loan relief programs already on offer!

In fact, this website hosts over 100 different Guides on the many Federal and Private student loan debt programs currently available, so if you’re struggling to deal with your loans, make sure to take a look through some of the following links.

To find out how to get Help with Federal Student Loans, visit my Guides on:

Federal Student Loan Relief Programs

And for Help with Private Student Loans, look at my Guides on:

Private Student Loan Relief Programs

No matter how much you owe, what type of debt you have, or how long you’ve been in delinquency or default, you’re almost certain to find some value from the Guides I’ve linked to above.

For any other questions that you might have about student loans, please feel free to ask them in the Comments section at the bottom of this page.

Just make sure to tell me if you have Federal or Private loans, because that’ll determine which relief programs you have access to.

Finally, Please Help Me Out!

I spend hours per day, every single day, updating this website. It’s basically my 2nd full-time job.

And I can’t keep dedicating that much time to this project unless I get some support from the community.

As a Bernie Sanders fan, I’m sure you’re well-aware of how important it is to do your part to make things better for others, and the general community, and I want to ask you to do something super simple and easy for me.

Don’t send me money, but please do post a link to my site wherever you think people with student loans will see it! Post it to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or an old-school Forum!

The more people who visit my site, the more time I can spend writing up helpful, informative posts like this one, and helping people just like you.

Thank you for your support!

Disclaimer:Information obtained from Forget Student Loan Debt is for educational purposes only. You should consult a licensed financial professional before making any financial decisions. This site receives some compensation through affiliate relationships. This site is not endorsed or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education.


Tim's experience struggling with crushing student loan debt led him to create the website Forget Student Loan Debt in 2011, where he offers advice, tips and tricks for paying off student loans as quickly and affordably as possible.