Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday in a blog post that she would cancel student debt for millions of Americans on day one if elected president and without waiting for Congress. 

“I’ll direct the Secretary of Education to use their authority to begin to compromise and modify federal student loans consistent with my plan to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for 95% of student loan borrowers (about 42 million people),” Warren wrote.

She will also direct the Department of Education to rein in for-profit universities and combat racial disparities in higher education. 

Warren believes that the Higher Education Act of 1965 would allow the Department of Education to bypass Congress, as the legislation allows the department to modify, waive or release student loans. 

Warren had previously introduced legislation in the summer that would wipe out most U.S. student debt. She said in the post that “we can’t afford to wait for Congress to act.” 

Americans carry $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, making it a major issue in the election. Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who are both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, have both repeatedly addressed eliminating some or all of student debt. Sanders’ plan would cost $2.2 trillion and would cancel all outstanding student debt along with making public universities free. Warren’s plan would cost $1.25 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Debt cancellation supporters say that by eliminating student debt, it would boost GDP, as Americans who had debt will now spend that money on other things, such as consumer goods or on mortgages. 

Republicans have criticized debt forgiveness plans for its cost and that it would be unfair to those who have already paid down their debt the traditional way.

Debt forgiveness has been a politicized issue in Washington. A poll from Quinnipiac University in late April showed that 80% of Democrats support the government forgiving $50,000 in student debt for those who earn less than $250,000 a year, compared to 30% of Republicans.

A long-delayed federal rule from the Obama administration — it was supposed to go in effect in July but stalled until October 2018 — helped protect student loan borrowers who were defrauded by their schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had suspended the rule with plans to rewrite it but a judge ruled against the Department of Education. In October 2019, DeVos was fined $100,000 for violating a judge’s order to halt debt collection against former students at the now-defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges, which was fined almost $30 million for misleading students and loan agencies.

"I've had some honest disagreements with my friends in the Republican Party on how to move education forward but I have never — not one time — believed they were out to destroy public education until I met you," Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla, said to DeVos in December. "You are the most unpopular person in our government. Millions will register to vote in 2020 and many will vote to remove you more than to remove the president."