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October 25, 2022

VIDEO: Pressley, Warren Kick off Statewide Tour to Sign Up Massachusetts Residents for Student Debt Cancellation

Lawmakers Began in Boston, Brockton, Will Make Stops in Worcester and Springfield

Statewide Road Trip Comes as White House Launches Application for Student Debt Cancellation

Video (YouTube)

BOSTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) kicked off their Massachusetts tour to celebrate the Biden Administration’s student debt cancellation plan and to sign up residents for debt cancellation. Rep. Pressley and Sen. Warren began their tour in Boston and Brockton, and will make stops today in Worcester and Springfield. Their statewide road trip follows the White House’s launch of the application for student loan debt cancellation. 

At their first stop at the Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library, Rep. Pressley and Senator Warren delivered remarks, alongside Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan and former Boston Mayor and current CEO of Economic Mobility Pathways Kim Janey, before beginning workshops with advocates to help borrowers sign up for cancellation.

A full transcript of Rep. Pressley’s and Senator Warren’s remarks is below, and full video is available here.

Transcript: Pressley, Warren Kick off Statewide Tour to Sign Up Massachusetts Residents for Student Debt Cancellation
October 25, 2022

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: I’m here to talk about two things. And that is both to celebrate our partnership – It’s a long path to get here, and sometimes a little noisy along the way. I just want to say thank you to all of you. I’m here to do two things this morning. One is to celebrate partnership. And two is to extend partnership even further. I start by celebrating partnership by saying when you really go into a hard fight, you want somebody beside you who is ready with the same kind of determination to live and breathe this morning, noon and night until we get the job done. And that person is Ayanna Pressley.

We wouldn’t have done this without Ayanna. She was there behind the scenes. She was there in front of the scenes. She was there making the scene. Ayanna’s the one who helped push this across the finish line. So it’s clear what it means to the people of Massachusetts and what it means to the people of this country.

I also want to say a very special thank you to Kim Janey, who has been fighting the fights for economic justice. Plowed this field in this fight, and also to the NAACP. Tanisha, I appreciate what you’ve done. I appreciate what’s been done nationally to drive home that this is about economic justice and about racial justice. Never to have anyone forget that as much as we talk about education being the great equalizer, the great opener of doors of opportunity, and I believe that. That the consequences of student loan debt have turned us in exactly the opposite direction. That today, people of color borrow more money to go to school, more money while they’re in school, and have a harder time paying it off when they got out of school.

You were powerful in joining forces to make sure that the President of the United States, that his entire administration, and that people across this country understand student loan debt is not the issue of a handful of elites from Ivy League colleges. It is a racial justice issue. It is an issue for people who have gone to community college. It is an issue for people who have gotten technical degrees. It is an issue for people who have their four-year degree. It is an issue of working people across this nation. This partnership is how we make change.

President Biden has canceled up to $20,000 in student loan debt, and yes, zero debt. Thank you for your part in this. All the groups that [INAUDIBLE]. Up to $20,000, we’ve gotten the policy, the President has now gotten us going. But it only works if we extend this partnership. It only works if it moves for all of us who have been talking about this for a long time, right down to every one of the over 800,000 people here in our Commonwealth who are eligible for student loan debt relief, the 43 million who are eligible all across this nation. So, the Congresswoman and I are out here today. We’re road-tripping. We’ve already talked about the snacks, the playlist. We’re on this.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY: She wanted country.

SENATOR WARREN: Oh, Patsy Cline speaks to my heart. But we’re out here to try to go across the Commonwealth and get more people engaged. It’s an easy form. We’re going to talk more about how to do that in just a minute about applying. But we need everybody now to apply. Government is here to work for you. And it’s not all the time that we get to say that. But this time, we have the great first half of a victory. We’ve now got the policy in place. We need the second half, and that is everybody take advantage of it. So with that, I’m going to turn it over to my partner, my beloved friend, Ayanna Pressley.

REP. PRESSLEY: Before I get to my thought partners, strategic counselor here, first I just want to just talk about the place that we’re in.

Just thank you to the Grove Hall of Boston Public Library.

You have been a tremendous partner on so many issues.

During the pandemic when we needed to connect people to rental assistance, you provided a space for that.

And so just to the entire dedicated team here at Grove Hall, a BPL, we appreciate you and thank you for being incredibly good neighbors and partners in the work of getting information out, from rental assistance now to student debt relief.

I also just want to say how incredible it is to stand here in Grove Hall and the fact that I can just stand here with three Black women that I get to call president.

The President of BECMA, we thank BECMA for their leadership and being partners in this broad coalition.

President Sullivan of the NAACP, the NAACP is a big part of the reason why Pell Grant recipients were included in this. I’ll never forget the day that they stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge holding signs saying Cancel Student Debt.

They were able to onboard other civil rights organizations as we grew this coalition over the last two years to include borrowers, civil rights organizations, NAACP leading that charge, union families and the presidents of labor unions, again, really just seeking to tell the accurate story and to provide the face of this nearly $2 trillion crisis.

And of course, what a joy it is to be able to refer to you both as Mayor and President.

Kim Janey, we thank you for your leadership.

Every issue you’ve taken on has been about making the road easier and unburdening those who carry the heaviest burdens from fair free transit and expanding those bus lines when you were Mayor, to your role now at EMPath, we thank you.

And I will say when EMPath was the Crittenton Women’s Union, this is actually what introduced me to the crisis of student debt.

Because as I listened actively to the stories of the women there looking to get on a pathway of self-sufficiency, I found that there was a common thread.

And that is that many of them had attended for profit colleges and universities.

And that’s where I first became aware of those deceptive business practices and predatory marketing.

And Senator Warren, you’ve been an incredible leader on that issue, as well.

So, I think all the presidents and I think our senior Senator, who has been my partner in good, and I’m just so grateful for your thought leadership and your strategic counsel.

And, as President Janey so rightly put it to all of you, it is the stories that you shared, that we carried in our hearts, Senator Warren, and I, at every presser, every March, every negotiation, up until the very end.

I want to first center the racial justice components of this.

Black Americans have been locked out of every major federal relief program in this country, from the Homestead Act to the GI Bill, to the New Deal, and of course, disproportionately targeted by redlining.

There have been gains made, Black Americans earn on some instances more income, but we don’t have wealth.

And so Black borrowers borrow at higher rates, 85%, that of our white counterparts, and 65%.

And then we are five times more likely to default on those loans.

And so, when you think about those things that create generational justice, a policy like this student debt relief, and in many instances, cancellation.

This is transformative.

This is generational justice.

This allows those who have been disproportionately locked out to begin to build well to purchase a home.

And we were able to strengthen our hand on negotiations during the pandemic because we fought successfully for those three pandemic pauses on student loan payments.

And we heard most stories of people, many who became first-generation homeowners who were able to purchase essential goods at a time when they needed every single dollar.

And we appealed to the Biden-Harris administration.

Look how game changing this has been just during this short period.

Imagine how more meaningful and transformative this will be with a stroke of a pen when you make student debt relief real.

And so, we thank the Biden-Harris administration for heading the cause of this broad and diverse coalition.

This is a racial justice issue. It is a gender justice issue.

Two thirds of this debt is disproportionately on the shoulders of women.

And it is an economic justice issue impacting people from every walk of life.

Educators who went into debt now raising young families.

They went into debt because they wanted to be nation builders set our babies on the best path and they can’t pay childcare and the monthly minimum.

Some of them risk losing licensure.

I want to talk to you about the fastest growing constituency of borrowers.

50+ senior citizens I met as old as 76 on fixed incomes, who had their benefits garnished, who cried to me, I’m gonna die.

It’s still owing on this.

I haven’t even touched the principal.

I owe more now than I took out.

I want to talk to you about parents, many of them Black parents who took out Parent Plus loans who can’t retire because they’re still paying on the loans they took out for their babies.

I won’t call this student debt forgiveness because borrowers did nothing wrong.

You cannot say that we live in a meritocracy.

Education is life’s great equalizer and put it farther and farther out of reach.

The cost of higher education is increased by 150%.

So finally, not only is this transformational and meaningful and a testament to the strength of this movement and this coalition, because more often than not, government does not lead it response.

And it responded to this movement.

Because we weren’t indefatigable, we did persist.

We were vigilant.

And we kept that fight up because you were worth that fight.

Because not only has this debt been burdensome, because of the economic impacts, but there’s a psychological toll.

And I know about that toll.

This is not something that is abstract for me.

I am one of those Black student borrowers raised in a single parent home, first in the family to go to college since taking on this debt, not even knowing fully what I was taking on.

And I did default on those loans.

And I did ultimately pay those loans off.

But I carried such shame.

It didn’t matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t get ahead.

To this day, and I know it’s 2022, so very few people have landlines, but I didn’t want a landline because it was such a to hear a ringing phone, just the constant calling the trauma of that.

And so again, I did ultimately pay on those loans.

And you know what, I don’t have any issue with the fact that I paid on those loans.

And now there are people for whom we’re gonna get meaningful relief and cancellation to because that’s what we’re supposed to do.

This is about generational justice and making the road easier.

But the last story I want to share with you is I was meeting with some elders in Cambridge last week and a mother came up to me at the end of our coffee, and she cried, and she said, please tell people that this is bigger than the borrowers.

She said, my daughter, her loans are now going to be zeroed out.

And as a mom, who has struggled in my own life, I felt such a guilt that I couldn’t help her.

And so it wasn’t just her daughter who was burdened and was carrying that shame, her mother was carrying that shame.

So this has really been an inter-generational crisis, in the weight of this debt, but in the shame of this debt.

And so I was joking with us, Senator Warren, as I was looking at these incredible graphics our team came up with, and even though we’re not in a bus, I’m gonna say we’re in a bus, because I said this is a new kind of freedom bus a new type of freedom tram.

Because we’re giving people setting them on a pathway to economic freedom.

And so we need everyone to go to

This site has been live now for 10 days, and already 22 million people have signed up, because that is how many people desperately need this relief.

And so that’s why we’re taking this show, this freedom bus if you will, on the road today because it’s not true if you build it they will come, you’ve got to meet people where they are and make sure they know.

For years, Rep. Pressley and Sen. Warren, in partnership with House and Senate colleagues and alongside borrowers, advocates and organizers, have called on President Biden to cancel student debt. Last year, they led their colleagues in reintroducing their bicameral resolution outlining a plan for President Biden to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel federal student loan debt. 

Last month, Pressley and Warren joined Biden-Harris Administration officials in unveiling new state state-by-state data on how the President’s plan for student debt cancellation will benefit borrowers in all fifty states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. According to official estimates, over 813,000 Massachusetts borrowers stand to benefit, including over 400,000 Pell Grant recipients.