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October 8, 2021

Pressley, Omar, Colleagues Call on Biden Administration to Release Student Debt Cancellation Memo

Text of Letter (PDF) 

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and their House colleagues on a letter to President Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urging him to release to the memo to determine the extent of the administration’s authority to broadly cancel student debt through administrative action. 

“Decades ago, Congress voted to authorize the executive branch to cancel federal student loans. Federal student debt can be canceled with the ‘flick of your pen,’” the Members wrote. “This authority is already being put to use, as it is currently being used to cancel the interest owed on all federally-held student loans. Now it is time for you to honor your campaign pledge and use this authority to cancel all student debt.” 

“The resumption of payments on federally-held student loans weighs heavily on tens of millions of borrowers. Forty-five million student debtors collectively owe $1.8 trillion of student debt, a sum almost equivalent to the $1.9 trillion the world’s billionaires made in 2020 alone. While the rich have gotten richer, the economic harm of the pandemic has not subsided for ordinary Americans. Unemployment insurance has been cut off and millions are living under threat of eviction.” 

In April, the White House promised that this memo would be released in a matter of “weeks.” Over six months having passed since that then. With only four months left before the student loan moratorium expires, borrowers are anxiously awaiting the administration’s actions. Making matters worse, one week ago over 16.5 million borrowers were dropped by their loan-services adding more confusion to the chaos. 

The letter is also signed by Reps. Yvette Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, Danny K. Davis, Jahana Hayes, Rashida Tlaib, Cori Bush, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nydia  Velazquez, Bonnie  Watson Coleman, Frederica S.  Wilson, Jimmy Gomez, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Al Green and Carolyn Maloney. 

Earlier this year, Congresswoman Pressley, Senator Warren, and Majority Leader Schumer led their colleagues in reintroducing their bicameral resolution outlining a bold plan for President Biden to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers. The lawmakers renewed their calls earlier this month at a press conference to call on Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt through executive action. 

In July, Rep. Pressley, Sen. Warren and Majority Leader Schumer led their colleagues on a bicameral letter to President Biden calling on him to extend the pause on federal student loan payments until at least March 31, 2022, and held a press conference yesterday to reiterate those calls. They applauded his decision last month to extend the payment pause through January. 

On April 13, Rep. Pressley testified at a Senate Banking subcommittee hearing to examine the student loan debt crisis in our country. In her testimony, Rep. Pressley discussed the racial and economic implications of canceling student debt, as well as her own experience with the student loan system. Full video and transcript of her testimony is available here. 

On April 1, Rep. Pressley, Senator Warren, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey held a press conference at which they called on President Biden to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers. 

Congresswoman Pressley has been leading the legislative fight for broad based student debt cancellation. Reps. Pressley, Alma Adams, and Ilhan Omar have repeatedly led their colleagues in calling on House leadership to take urgent action to combat the student debt crisis by including  student debt cancellation in any COVID relief package. In March, Pressley and Omar introduced the Student Debt Emergency Relief Act, legislation to cancel  student loan debt and shield borrowers from any involuntary payments and garnishment during the COVID-19 crisis.