Sen. Elizabeth Warren addresses canceling student loan debt, inequities in higher education

During a virtual event Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren discussed her proposal for President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. to implement a student loan forgiveness program that would benefit “three out of four borrowers.” 


Warren urged Biden to take a stand against student loan forgiveness and explained the effects of her proposal in Monday’s student press roundtable.


“For tens of millions of borrowers, it’s an impossible burden,” Warren said. “Nearly 43 million Americans are buried under one and a half trillion dollars of federal student loan debt, close to 9 million of those borrowers are in default.”


Along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Warren is proposing a $50,000 debt forgiveness program for those who make under $125,000 a year. 


Those who fall outside of the income bracket, Warren said, will still be able to “reduce their debt loads substantially.”


According to the Institute for College Access and Success, as of 2020, there are more than 45 million borrowers who collectively owe nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt to the federal government, averaging approximately $29,200 per person.


Warren, an educator herself, said that the Biden-Harris administration could address this issue the day they take office. Forgiving debt doesn’t just benefit students, Warren said, but the economy as a whole.


“The Biden administration can right this wrong, they can cancel up to $50,000 worth of student debt,” Warren said. “They can help close the racial wealth gap by 25 points for the Black-white wealth gap and close the Latinx-white wealth gap by 27 points. That’s what I’m fighting for.”


Student loan debt wasn’t the only topic Warren addressed. Inequities in higher education and access to adequate resources are both topics the senator is challenging the incoming administration to tackle head on.


“Biden, as a candidate, Harris, as a candidate, and nearly all of the Democrats have different plans, but plans to make sure that we bring down the cost of college. I’m pushing for a big investment into the historically Black colleges and universities and into other minority-serving institutions,” Warren said. “We can make an investment there to help keep those up to make those institutions tuition free.”


Warren said that investing in these institutions would help with “leveling the playing field” to ensure that education is “not a risk that people hope will pay off while they’re having to gamble by loading themselves up with student loans.” She said that education should instead be“an opportunity to build a future and to participate more fully in our economy.”


Warren’s answer to alleviating racial inequities and disparities in higher education was simple, “get rid of” current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.


“We get a different Secretary of Education, what happens on campus racial incidents on campus will be treated differently, we have a different department of justice and a different Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, you can expect more help from Washington,” Warren said. 


She emphasized that Americans have a right to demand more from those in office and that both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “have empathy” and “are determined to build an America that works for everyone” and create opportunity.  


“Demand more from Washington when the new administration comes in,” Warren said. “You have a right to do that, you have a responsibility to do that.”


Warren also said she has concerns for those students who are currently enrolled and facing housing and food insecurity. According to a study done by the California State University Basic Needs Initiative, in 2018 41.6% of CSU students were facing food insecurity and 10.9% were experiencing homelessness. 


Although data has yet to be collected reflecting the exact impact of the coronavirus pandemic on these statistics, it’s clear that students are struggling. Unemployment across the country has skyrocketed over the past nine months, currently sitting at 6.7% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics


“I’m really worried about what food insecurity, housing insecurity, in the middle of a pandemic means for our students,” Warren said. “I’m worried about what it means for people all across this nation, and this is a moment when Congress needs to step up and act.”


Warren said that her vision for the country over the next four years is to make education an attainable goal rather than a far-off dream or burden.


“It shouldn’t matter what zip code you live in, every child should have access to a first rate education,” Warren said.


The first step toward progress, Warren said, is to alleviate student loan debt. The next, she said, is to make higher education affordable to all.


“I want to wipe out a big chunk of the student loan debt, and I want us as a nation to put money into resources so that everyone can go to college debt-free,” Warren said. “I want to fund it with a two-cent wealth tax because it loses plenty of money to be able to do that. But the idea for me is to make college accessible for everyone.”

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