The bicameral Student Loan Debt Relief Act would eliminate up to $50,000 in student loan debt for 42 million Americans -- providing debt relief to 95% of student borrowers, including cancelling student debt entirely for 75% of borrowers.
A transcript of Senator Warren's remarks at the event is below.
Transcript: Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren at Press Conference Unveiling the Student Loan Debt Relief Act
July 23, 2019
Dirksen Senate Office Building
Thank you all for being here today to talk about student loan debt. I want to start by thanking my partner in the House, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who has worked on the student loan debt issue for many, many years, and we have now put together a proposal that would significantly reduce student loan debt for millions of people across this country.
Student loan debt in this nation has reached crisis proportions. 45 million Americans are dealing with student loan debt. You know, they really get caught in an America that says you need a post-high school education to get a ticket into America's middle class, a chance to build something going forward, but the cost of that education has shot through the roof, and you're pretty much on your own. The position of our federal government, by and large, has been to say, not to worry, we'll simply lend you the money with interest, so that now an entire generation has been burdened with about $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.
This hits people of color the hardest. We know, for example, from the data, that African-American students are more likely to have to borrow money to go to college, likely to borrow more money while they're in college, and likely to have a harder time paying their student loan debts when they get out of college. In fact, the average Black student loan borrower owes more money 12 years after graduation than he or she did at the time they left school. You know, this is crushing an entire generation. It crushes our leadership. It further divides our country, in effect saying, if you're lucky enough to be born into families that can write a check for tuition, you're on one path, and for everyone else, you're just going to get loaded under a pile of debt.
That debt not only affects the people who try to carry it, it affects our entire economy. I make this pitch every chance I get. Whether you know someone who has student loan debt, or love someone who has student loan debt, or not, you should care about reducing the student loan debt burden. Because today, what's happening, is that young people with student loan debt are not moving out of their parents' homes, as we would expect; they're not buying their own homes, as we would expect; they don't start their own businesses. It is a drag on our entire economy. Finding a way to cancel a big chunk of that student loan debt means freeing up young people to do more, to buy more, and to start their own businesses, and a real shot to our economy.
So, what the Congressman and I have proposed is that we tackle the student loan debt crisis head on. We have proposed the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, and it would be debt cancellation for up to $50,000 for 42 million Americans. And for people who still have some loans outstanding after that, it would reduce the interest rates on those loans.
The effect it would have on our economy would be felt immediately, and one place it would be felt would be in the racial wealth gap in this country. As everyone in this room knows, there is a Black-White wealth gap in America that has been persistent and growing. The day our bill gets signed into law, that Black-White wealth gap shrinks. That means that African-American families are moving closer to white families in terms of their overall financial picture. Across the population, it would shrink by about four points; for people with student loan debt, when this bill goes into law, the Black-White wealth gap would shrink by about 25 points. That is a significant difference that we have not seen in this country.
For me, this is personal. The first bill I ever introduced in the United States Senate was to try to cut the interest rate on student loans. Back then, it was a pretty far-out position. The number of cosponsors I could get in the United States Senate was a nice, round number: zero. But I thought it was the right fight to have, because I'm a kid, whose daddy ended up as a janitor, but who had a dream to be a public school teacher. You don't get to do that if you can't do four years of college. My family didn't have the money for college, and like a lot of people, I have a twisty-turny story around this, but ultimately my opportunity was what was then a commuter college that cost $50 a semester. And so a price that I could pay for on a part-time waitressing job gave me the opportunity to finish a four-year diploma and become a special needs teacher. That opportunity is just not out there today, and the signs of it not being out there is how many people are carrying so much debt in this country.
We're in the fight to turn that back around and to say America should be a country of opportunity, not just for those born into privilege, but for everyone. And so I am delighted to be here today with Congressman Clyburn to fight this fight.