Warren defends student loan plan after confrontation at campaign event

Warren has vowed to begin eliminating student loan debt on her first day in office, if elected

Elizabeth Warren defended her plan to cancel student loan debt for most Americans after a man confronted her during an Iowa campaign event, venting his frustration that her proposal would not reimburse him for tuition he’d already paid.

“Look, we build a future going forward by making it better,” she said on CBS News. “By that same logic, what would we have done? Not started Social Security because we didn’t start it last week?”

Conservatives began circulating the video on Thursday, which appears to show Warren speaking to supporters after a town hall in Grimes, Iowa, on Monday.

"I just wanted to ask one question. My daughter is getting out of school. I've saved all my money. She doesn't have any student loans. Am I going to get my money back?" the father asked Warren.

“Of course not,” Warren said.


"So you're going to pay for people who didn't save any money and those of us who did the right thing get screwed?” he responded.

The man went on to say he had a friend who “bought a car and went on all the vacations,” while he worked a double shift.

“You’re laughing at me,” the man said, which Warren denied. “Yeah, that’s exactly what you’re doing. We did the right thing and we get screwed.”

“I appreciate your time,” Warren said.


Warren’s plan, the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, would cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for every household with a gross income less than $100,000, representing roughly 42 million Americans, or about three out of four borrowers. It would also partly eliminate debt for those who make as much as $250,000.

“Our kids have taken on $1.5 trillion,” she said on Friday. “We have got to back that up and say we’re doing better going forward, we’re not going to make the next generation take on $2 trillion, or $3 trillion, or $4 trillion. We don’t build an America by saddling our kids with debt. We build an America by saying we’re going to open up those opportunities for kids to be able to get an education without getting crushed by student loan debt.”

In a plan released at the beginning of January, Warren said she would direct the secretary of Education to “use their authority” to begin to cancel and mollify student loan debt by as much $50,000 in relief for about 95 percent of student loan borrowers. Under the Higher Education Act, Warren argued, the Department of Education has the power to “modify, compromise, waive or release” student loans. She says that would give her administration the ability to cancel, or ease, student loan debt.

“Let’s be clear: our government has cleared far bigger hurdles to meet the needs of big businesses when they came looking for bailouts, tax giveaways, and other concessions,” she wrote in a recent Medium post.


Outstanding student loan debt has doubled over the past decade, surpassing a staggering $1.5 trillion. It’s the largest amount of non-mortgage debt in the U.S. and has been cited as a major hindrance in people’s “economic life” by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Private student loan borrowers would also be eligible for debt forgiveness under her plan by converting their private debt into federal student loans. It would also suspend the collection of student loan payments for a year while the Department of Education carries out the loan forgiveness plans.

Warren's campaign estimated the plan would cost about $640 billion. However, she said that would be paid for a wealth tax of 2 percent on individuals worth more than $50 million and 6 percent on those worth $1 billion.