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December 11, 2023

VIDEO: Pressley Testifies at Education Dept’s Final Hearing on Student Debt Cancellation

“The reach and impact of [the President’s] historic plan should be the bare minimum of what the Department of Education produces.”

Earlier Today, Pressley, Warren, Colleagues Urged ED to Expand Student Debt Cancellation by Strengthening Proposed Rules for Relief

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) testified at the U.S. Department of Education’s final hearing on student debt cancellation. In her remarks, Rep. Pressley urged the Student Loan Debt Relief Committee to deliver the bold, transformative student debt cancellation that borrowers were promised.

Her testimony was part of the negotiated rulemaking process to establish an alternative debt relief pathway under the Higher Education Act following the Supreme Court’s callous obstruction of President Biden’s student debt cancellation plan over the summer.

Earlier today, Rep. Pressley and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with their colleagues, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, urging him to leverage his existing and full authority under the Higher Education Act to provide expanded student debt relief to working and middle-class borrowers.

A full transcript of her testimony is available below and the video is available here.

Transcript: Pressley Testifies at Education Department’s Final Hearing on Student Debt Cancellation
December 11, 2023

Good afternoon,

I am Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. I represent the Massachusetts 7th, a vibrant, dynamic, and diverse Congressional District that is also one of the most unequal. Where in a three-mile radius, from Cambridge to predominantly Black Roxbury, median household income drops by $50,000 and life expectancy by 30 years.

Addressing these injustices brought me to Congress in much of the same way addressing the injustice of student loan debt brought you all to this committee.

I applaud the committee for its dedication to confronting the nearly 2 trillion-dollar crisis that burdens 43 million people in the United States.

Last week, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate in a comment letter urging that the current neg-reg process result in providing the full-scale debt relief that low- and middle-income borrowers urgently need. 

We detail concrete ways to draft a final rule that delivers for the American people, and I hope the committee gives our recommendations the close consideration they deserve. 

The 76-year-old grandmother still paying on student loans, the elementary school educator struggling to repay their student debt on a teacher’s income, the ironworker who is losing a slice of their union paycheck to student loan repayment, and the young family balancing the skyrocketing cost of childcare, rent, and student loans.

The people in my district and millions of others have their eyes on this Committee.

And it is essential that they benefit from student loan debt relief.

Last year, President Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for borrowers offered so much hope to people that believed they would never be able to start a family, open a business, or to achieve financial stability.

The reach and impact of that historic plan should be the bare minimum of what the Department of Education produces. 

Despite the Supreme Court’s cruel and callous obstruction, the statutory authority under the Higher Education Act should embolden this Committee to do all that it can to ensure everyone experiencing financial hardship receives relief.

And we must recognize that the very need to take out student debt in order to attain a degree is in and of itself a financial hardship.

In the United States, we refer to education as the great equalizer, but we place barriers in the ways of families accessing education. 

Black and Latinx students have to borrow at higher rates that take longer for them to pay, leaving communities of color holding a disproportionate share of the nation’s student debt burden.

Students with an [expected family contribution of zero dollars] should not be punished for doing the very thing our society encourages them to do and pursue higher education.

The 2 trillion dollar burden of student loan debt is a national crisis that demands a bold, transformative response.

Like millions of others, I took out student loans to attend college. It took me over 20 years to pay them off. 

I was a caregiver to my mother. I worked multiple jobs. And at one point, my own loans were in default. 

My story is not an anomaly and far too many have experienced a similar struggle.

Borrowers demand and deserve student debt cancellation, President Biden promised student debt cancellation, and this Committee must deliver.