Senator Warren Highlights Urgent Need to Cancel Student Loan Debt at HELP Hearing: If Congress Won't Act, the President Can
$1.6 trillion in student loan debt and growing is crushing tens of millions of people and disportionately harming Black and Brown communities; "Leader Schumer and I introduced a resolution this morning calling on President Trump and Secretary DeVos to use the authority Congress has already given them to broadly cancel student loan debt now"
Washington, DC -- During today's Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing today, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged the Senate to focus on the massive student loan debt crisis, which is disproportionately hurting Black and Brown communities, and explore broad student debt cancellation. Senator Warren noted that since the Republicans took control of the Senate nearly six years ago, the Committee has not held one single hearing on the student debt crisis.
In response to Senator Warren, Dr. Judith Scott-Clayton and Dr. Bridget Terry Long confirmed that the student debt crisis negatively impacts students. In response to Senator Warren's questions about the impact of the student loan debt crisis on communities of color, Dr. Scott-Claytonsaid that nearly half of Black student loan borrowers would experience a student loan default within 12 years of college entry and that a Black college graduate with a bachelor's degree is more likely to experience a default than a white college dropout. These statistics could get worse during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
If Congress doesn't act, Senator Warren highlighted the resolution she introduced today with Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer calling on President Trump and Secretary DeVos to use the authority Congress has already given them to broadly cancel student loan debt now.
Thursday, September 17, 2020
U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Senator Warren: Thank you. Mr. Chairman. This is our 4th annual hearing simplifying student aid applications. And by now, I think all of us agree that this is a good idea, but four hearings?
Since the Republicans took control of the Senate nearly six years ago, we have not had one single hearing in this committee on the student debt crisis.
Instead of spending more time on how to make it easier for students to borrow more money, I think we ought to focus on how to deal with the $1.6 trillion dollars in debt that is crushing millions of people. And I think that's particularly urgent because student loan debt is disproportionately a serious problem for Black and Brown communities-especially as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis also disproportionately hits the same communities.
I believe it's time to explore bold solutions like broad student debt cancellation-Congress should do that, but even if Congress doesn't cancel student loan debt, the President and Secretary of Education could do that right now.
So, Dr. Scott-Clayton, just how bad is the student debt crisis for Black and Brown families?
Dr. Scott-Clayton: It's really shockingly bad. Even prior to the pandemic, nearly half of Black student loan borrowers would experience a student loan default within 12 years of college entry. That's-- compared to about a third of Hispanic borrowers and one in five white student borrowers. It's so bad that a Black college graduate with a bachelor's degree is more likely to experience a default than a white college dropout. And unfortunately these stats might get worst due to the pandemic.
Senator Warren: Right.
And Dr. Long, what are the consequences of the student debt crisis for students who are still in school? Does debt have an impact on their completion?
Dr. Long: Thank you, Senator Warren, for highlighting this issue. Yes, it's affecting not only attainment but the quality of the experiences. The research shows lower GPAs, lower academic engagement, taking advantage of resources, reduction in course load, so attainment being affected. And then these students, it affects their ability to save and to participate in asset-building, so it has many negative consequences.
Senator Warren: So, thank you. Just quickly, Dr. Scott-Clayton, I know you agree with me that simplifying the FAFSA form is a good idea, but do you also agree that student debt cancellation is the most efficient and effective solution to the crisis facing borrowers right now?
Dr. Scott-Clayton: I-- I do agree given the urgency right now. We absolutely need to talk about student debt cancellation to address the crisis in student loans.
Senator Warren: So, thank you. I appreciate that. I request unanimous consent to submit into the hearing record a letter from the Harvard Law School Project on Predatory Student Lending. It details the legal authority of the Secretary of Education to cancel student loans without Congressional action.
Millions of people are getting crushed by student loan debt. And that's why I have a bill to broadly cancel student loan debt as well.
Mr. Chairman, do I have permission to enter this into the record?
Chairman Lamar Alexander: It would be so ordered, Senator Warren.
Senator Warren: Thank you. You know, but even if Congress doesn't act, Leader Schumer and I introduced a resolution this morning calling on President Trump and Secretary DeVos to use the authority Congress has already given them to broadly cancel student loan debt now. It is time to get this done.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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