On the steps of the Martin Luther King International Chapel at Morehouse College, U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders hosted a rally Thursday to share his plan to fund historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and eliminate all US student debt.

The Vermont Senator expressed his appreciation for billionaire Robert F. Smith, who pledged to pay off the student loans of the entire class of 2019 at Morehouse’s commencement this May.

Sanders stated that what Smith did for those students is exactly what he intends to do for all college students who have accumulated college loan debt.

“When we talk about education, we are talking about making all public colleges and universities tuition-free and it means we are going to cancel all student debt in this country!” Sanders exclaimed.

How the presidential candidate aims to accomplish this measure is by taxing the “one percent” which would help to generate more than the $2.2 trillion needed to cancel this nation’s student debt.

“If we could bail out the crooks on Wall Street — Trump and his friends to give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the one percent and to large corporations, we can cancel all student debt in this country,” he said.

Sanders stressed the importance of the country’s HBCUs’ role in higher education as greatly needed now more than ever; however, he also acknowledged the nearly 100 schools have suffered financially from a lack of federal resources, reduced enrollment and pulverizing institutional debt.

African Americans represent 13 percent of America’s total population, yet they only account for 7 percent of public school teachers and 4 percent of physicians, according to Sanders. 

“Under the proposal, I am proudly introducing today at Morehouse, we will establish a dedicated fund to create and expand teacher training programs at HBCUs,” Sanders said. “We will provide $5 billion for programs that increase recruitment, retention and professional development of diverse K-12 teachers.”

Sanders also noted that dental care is healthcare and the urgent need to train and educate thousands of Black dentists and doctors of all practices.

“We are gonna’ provide an additional $5 billion to create and expand medical and dental programs at HBCUs to help end the shortage of Black doctors.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro are two Democratic candidates who also propose a student loan forgiveness plan, but are limited and unlike Sanders’ plan.

According to Politico, Warren was the first to introduce a plan but hers only offers $50,000 of debt forgiveness to people earning less than $100,000 which subsequently provides far less debt relief for those earning more. Castro’s plan seeks to provide loan forgiveness for people with lower-income.

“We need great teachers in this country and we’re gonna make it easier for our young people to do those important jobs,” Sanders said.

Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) addresses a crowd at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he praised billionaire Robert F. Smith and also announced his plan to eliminate college debt debt for America's HBCUs. (Alton Pitre / The Atlanta Voice)

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