[Congressional Record Volume 167, Number 208 (Thursday, December 2, 2021)]
[House]
[Pages H6895-H6901]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                        CANCEL STUDENT LOAN DEBT

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Ms. Strickland). Under the Speaker's 
announced policy of January 4, 2021, the gentleman from New York (Mr. 
Bowman) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority 
leader.


                             General Leave

  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and 
include extraneous material on the subject of my Special Order.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from New York?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, today, we are focused on Federal student 
loans.
  This global pandemic, which is very much still with us, has been hard 
on Americans in so many ways. One source of relief the Federal 
Government has been able to provide is the pause on Federal student 
loan payments. That pause is scheduled to end after January, and tens 
of millions of Americans will have to resume monthly payments on their 
loans.
  Millions of people will yet again be faced with terrible choices 
between paying off their loans and putting food on the table, paying 
for childcare, or paying medical bills. Student debt is a national 
crisis. It was a crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic and it is an even 
bigger one now.
  I can't think of a better opportunity to cancel student loan debt. 
Today, over 40 million borrowers owe a combined $1.8 trillion in loans, 
and the share of people who are able to make payments high enough to 
reduce their principal balance has been rapidly declining. That means 
for years people have been doing all they can to make

[[Page H6896]]

monthly payments but can only afford to keep up with the interest that 
accrues.
  If someone took out a $30,000 loan to go to a public State university 
but can only afford the minimum monthly payments to cover interest, 
they can be paying hundreds of dollars every month for years without 
seeing the total amount they owe go down at all. In fact, many 
borrowers see their debt increase because they can't even keep up with 
the interest.

                              {time}  1845

  Far too often it can take a borrower over a decade to pay off their 
loans, and many borrowers end up defaulting because they simply cannot 
make ends meet with such high payments. This can have lasting impacts 
on a person's financial, mental, and physical health which taken all 
together makes it harder for people to fully participate in the economy 
over the long-term.
  For example, Madam Speaker, you can't get a Small Business 
Administration loan if you have defaulted on any loan in the past 7 
years. So many of our family members, friends, and neighbors face 
additional barriers to starting businesses because of student debt. 
They face additional barriers to save for retirement, buying homes, 
taking care of their health and putting off doctors' visits or 
necessary prescriptions, starting families, or pursuing a career they 
are passionate about.
  Students took these risks in their pursuit of the American Dream 
through obtaining a college degree. Students across America are doing 
exactly what we asked them to do; work hard, study and learn deeply, 
grow your mind, develop your skills, and expand your world view. 
Students across America took these steps because we told them that 
education, particularly higher education, would be the great equalizer. 
We told them their hard work would open doors for the rest of their 
lives.
  Instead, we have shut those doors in their faces one by one, and we 
have disproportionately done this to Black and Latino, indigenous, and 
poor students. We have preyed upon our most vulnerable kids.
  The student debt crisis is a racial justice issue, and we cannot talk 
about the problem nor the solutions without centering the experiences 
of students and families of color and others who come from marginalized 
communities.
  Canceling student debt would mean putting money back into people's 
pockets and improving the overall economy. This is money that can be 
used to pay for childcare so that parents can reenter the workforce and 
actually use the degree they went into debt for in the first place. 
This is money that can be used to start a business or buy a house or 
pay for necessary healthcare.
  This newfound freedom will open the door to pursue a passion or a 
purpose like teaching, nursing, or public service rather than one that 
just pays the bills. This freedom will improve one's quality of life 
and provide the self-determination necessary for quality, long-term 
planning.
  Canceling student debt would go a long way in reducing the racial 
wealth gap and the racial homeownership gap and would help address many 
of the systemic barriers Black and Brown families face.
  It is time to cancel this predatory student debt to give the American 
people a fresh start and accelerate both the economic and social well-
being of our Nation. Our predatory debt is an unfair and unjust burden 
that has been hanging over the heads of borrowers since they decided to 
pursue an education.
  That is why I, along with many Members you will hear tonight, Madam 
Speaker, have been calling on President Biden to use his executive 
authority to cancel Federal student loans. This authority is already 
being used right now to cancel the interest owed on all Federal student 
loans during the pandemic. Now it is time to use that same authority to 
cancel all Federal student debts.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Washington (Ms. 
Jayapal), who will highlight many ways canceling students loan debt is 
urgently needed. Congresswoman Jayapal will address this House on this 
very important issue.
  Ms. JAYAPAL. Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, Representative 
Bowman, for his incredible leadership. It has been a true honor to 
serve with the gentleman in the Progressive Caucus, this Special Order 
hour has always been the Progressive Caucus' Special Order hour led in 
his very capable hands and also to be able to serve with him on the 
Education and Labor Committee. The gentleman brings tremendous power to 
the actual experience of education through his own background. I am so 
proud to serve with the gentleman.
  Madam Speaker, I, too, am here to talk about the need to cancel 
student debt. This is a tremendous crisis for 36 million Americans who 
are being crushed by $1.8 trillion in student loan debt.
  When I first ran for Congress in 2016, the number was $1.2 trillion; 
then it was $1.3 trillion, $1.5 trillion, now it is almost $1.8 
trillion in student loan debt. Working families and students are 
counting on this administration to build us all back better.
  But many families like those I represent in Seattle cannot thrive 
with the crippling burden of student loan debt holding them back at 
every single turn.
  With the student loan moratorium expiring at the end of January, 
borrowers are literally just a few weeks away from resuming to pay 
substantial amounts of their income toward student loan payments and 
the crises that they are facing, the trauma that they are facing as 
they think about what they are going to do when this moratorium expires 
and how they are going to make these payments. Over one-quarter of 
borrowers expect at least one-third of their income will go toward 
student loans once the pause ends, and they are terrified. Eighty-nine 
percent of full-time employed borrowers are expecting to be financially 
insecure come February 1.
  While that number is concerning, it should not be surprising. The 
economic toll of the pandemic has made it tough for one-quarter of all 
adults to pay their bills. To make ends meet, people have stayed afloat 
by using the money that would have gone to student loan payments on all 
the other essential costs that they have. Eighty-seven percent of 
borrowers report using these savings to pay off other bills.
  This is personal. My office recently heard from a mother and a 
veteran in the Seattle area who was delinquent in her payments even 
before the first case of COVID-19 hit our country. She is glad that the 
pause has given her a chance to catch up on payments, but she is 
concerned that very soon she will have to choose between paying her 
mortgage and repaying her student loans after January. Not having to 
make student loan payments has helped her and her family. But should 
this pause end without student debt cancelation, she and her children 
will be on the path to financial ruin. We have the power to make sure 
that does not happen. This administration has the power to make sure 
that does not happen.

  The good news is that this administration does have, as my colleague 
said, the authority to do what is right for families like hers and like 
so many that I have been hearing from. Clearly, if the pause on student 
loans and interest was necessary to help families sustain themselves 
through the pandemic, then ending it without any form of permanent 
student debt relief would be harmful, especially as many families are 
continuing to struggle during this ongoing crisis.
  Consider the tremendous strides the Biden administration has made 
toward reviving our struggling economy: low unemployment, reopened 
businesses, and vaccinations driving consumer demand. Eliminating 
$50,000, at least, of student debt per borrower would increase average 
yearly pay by $3,000 which in turn would increase GDP by $1 trillion.
  Cancelation would also solidify access to important paths for 
building the middle class which have been delayed due to student loan 
debt. More than 80 percent of borrowers with student loan debt report 
that that debt is holding them back from being able to afford a home. 
Many would be in a better position to begin saving for homeownership as 
well as retirement or starting a business.

[[Page H6897]]

  Student loan forgiveness would also help close the wealth gap, as Mr. 
Bowman pointed out, especially in communities of color. Black, Latinx, 
and Native borrowers are more likely to struggle with repayments and 
consequently default on their loans at higher rates. Further, it is 
estimated that Black borrowers on average owe nearly $53,000 in student 
debt, the highest compared to other communities. In fact, the average 
student debt for Black households tripled in the 12 years following the 
2008 recession with student debt held by Black borrowers being triple 
what White borrowers owe just 4 years after graduating.
  So, yes, this is clearly a matter of racial and economic justice.
  Low-income and middle-class Americans are encouraged to pursue higher 
education as a tool for economic and social mobility. But here is the 
catch, the enduring weight of student loan debt negates opportunities 
for many borrowers to truly transform their lives and our country.
  As the lead sponsor of the College for All Act in the House and a 
proud cosponsor of the debt cancelation bill from Representative Omar, 
I know that eliminating student loan debt will better ensure that 
earning a degree remains a strong path to social mobility and economic 
security, particularly during this pivotal moment for our recovery. 
That is why the administration should cancel student loan debt.
  They can start with immediately eliminating at least $50,000 in 
student loan debt per borrower before the payments begin again. It is a 
single action that can cement progress for an entire generation of 
Americans and those who come after that. So let's deliver that 
financial breathing room. Let's deliver on racial equity and economic 
security by canceling student loan debt.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Jayapal for her 
remarks, and I thank her for her congressional leadership as the chair 
of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I thank the gentlewoman for 
lending her voice and vision to this very important issue.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from New York (Mr. 
Espaillat), who represents the Boogie Down Bronx right next door to me.
  Mr. ESPAILLAT. Madam Speaker, I thank Representative Bowman for 
yielding. Don't forget, I also represent Manhattan. I am a Latin from 
Manhattan.
  Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for giving me the opportunity to 
address this incredible issue.
  Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of canceling student debt for 
over 43 million Americans. In fact, Madam Speaker, student debt for 
some time now has surpassed credit card debt for America. It is mind-
boggling to consider that for many Americans they could be indebted for 
a significant period of their adult lifespan. Those who have children 
and then choose to help them out could be indebted for an entire life. 
So this is not the way a country should move forward.
  For more than a decade, mounting student loan debt has made it 
difficult for many Americans to purchase a home, to start their own 
business, to move forward and aspire to be part of the middle class or 
the advancement that this Nation should promise all its people.
  They have difficulties saving for the future of their families, so 
this is a transgenerational crisis. It is far beyond one generation.
  Recent data shows that borrowers in the United States owe 
collectively $1.6 trillion in Federal and private student loan debt. 
With the surge of the coronavirus cases and the rise in unemployment 
claims, the student loan crisis only worsened. It became a very deep 
crisis not only impacting American futures but putting in jeopardy the 
immediate needs and well-being of American families.
  As a strong proponent of student debt cancelation, I was proud to 
join my colleagues in responding to the growing crisis. Democrats in 
the House of Representatives led a bipartisan effort to provide 
economic assistance and relief to student borrowers in the CARES Act 
which was extended in the American Rescue Plan. So we have a record, 
Madam Speaker, of trying to throw a lifeline to all these borrowers who 
are drowning in debt.
  Earlier this year I was proud to join my colleagues in calling for a 
bold plan to tackle the student loan debt crisis and cancel up to 
$50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers.
  Failure to cancel student loan debt will continue to greatly affect 
the quality of life for millions of Americans. Like the coronavirus 
pandemic, student debt disproportionately affects low-income, working 
class, and communities of color. We must work to create a more 
equitable outcome for everyone.
  Student loan cancelation isn't only relief for debt holders, it is 
also one of the most effective ways to stimulate our economy. Let's be 
smart about this, Madam Speaker. Let's be smart about this. Let's 
unshackle and unsaddle people from their debt so they can have just a 
little bit more money in their pocket and spend it in local businesses.

                              {time}  1900

  They will not run away on a European vacation. They will not go to 
the South of France. They will go to the local store and spend their 
money there on emergency items, milk, Pampers, and food. So let's help 
them out.
  When Americans aren't burdened by student loans, they are more easily 
able to start businesses and help their families. Removing the 
financial barriers allows Americans to more easily join the workforce, 
as well.
  So not only will it stimulate local businesses and small businesses, 
which continue to be the biggest employers in America, but it would 
also help people come back to the workforce.
  I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Congressional 
Progressive Caucus to provide relief and economic justice to the 
millions upon millions of struggling debt owners under a mountain of 
student debt.
  Madam Speaker, I thank my distinguished colleague from the Bronx, and 
from Mount Vernon, and from Rockland County, and all the other areas 
that the gentleman distinguishes and represents for yielding to me.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I thank Mr. Espaillat for his kind words. 
Before he goes, I want to underscore what he said about people 
investing in their own communities when they have more money in their 
pockets. The gentleman just made me think of all the young children who 
want to take art classes, drama classes, and swimming lessons, and 
receive tutoring, and all the things that families cannot afford 
because they are trying to pay down their student debt.
  They can reinvest in their communities, reinvest in their children, 
and their children will be much less likely to commit harm to 
themselves or their communities because they have been developed and 
nurtured from an early age.
  I thank the gentleman so much for his remarks, my brother 
representing the Bronx, Manhattan, and the historic Washington Heights. 
We cannot forget that, Brother.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Georgia (Ms. 
Williams), my sister and fellow freshman.
  Ms. WILLIAMS of Georgia. Madam Speaker, I thank Representative Bowman 
for yielding.
  I am here today with the urgent request that the Biden administration 
cancel the student debt obligations that burden 44.7 million Americans. 
I am one of these 44.7 million Americans who is still paying off 
student loans well after our college days.
  I rise today to elevate the voices of the numerous constituents who 
continuously call me, Facebook me, and DM me to tell me their stories, 
including Natalie from Morningside and Jacob from Atlanta, both of whom 
told me that they are desperate for relief and that they only see 
heartache in their futures, all thanks to their student loan debt.
  But we know that it doesn't have to be this way. During the COVID-19 
pandemic, a financial lifeline was extended to the American people with 
emergency student loan relief. But that lifeline is going to end in 
just 2 short months.
  Now that we have seen that being free of the burden of student loan 
debt is possible, we must deliver for the American people and cancel 
student debt permanently.
  Student debt is disproportionately held by Black borrowers and 
continues to worsen the racial wealth gap. Nowhere is it more obvious 
to have this

[[Page H6898]]

vicious cycle of student loan debt exacerbate the racial wealth gap 
than with our historically Black colleges and universities. Not only am 
I a proud third-generation HBCU alum of Talladega College, but 
Georgia's Fifth Congressional District has more HBCUs than any other 
congressional district in this country.
  HBCUs have been intentionally underfunded throughout their history. 
While the Build Back Better Act will partially rectify that injustice, 
HBCUs are still struggling to meet the needs of the more than 290,000 
students enrolled in more than 100 HBCUs across America today. HBCUs' 
endowments are smaller compared to those of predominantly White 
institutions, and, in turn, that limits the aid that HBCUs can provide 
to our students, leading to larger student loans and smaller alumni 
donations, burdening grads with tens of thousands of dollars in debt 
and perpetuating the cycle for generations to come.
  Student loan debt also prevents people from starting a family and 
building a better life. An Education Trust study found that of graduate 
degree holders who earn between $75,000 and $100,000 with $94,000 in 
student loan debt, 55 percent of debtors delayed investments in 
retirement; 67 percent postponed buying a home; and 36 percent 
postponed having a child.
  We live in the richest country in the world. We ought to be ashamed 
of these statistics. We shouldn't accept that people must choose 
between paying off student loans or having the family that they have 
always dreamed of. For generations, American students have heard that a 
college education is the key to unlocking the American Dream. Instead 
of unlocking the American Dream, we have only created a uniquely 
American nightmare.
  We made a promise to the American people. We can deliver on that 
promise by canceling student loan debt so that everyone can thrive and 
not merely survive.
  I thank Representative Bowman for hosting this Special Order hour, 
and I look forward to making sure that we deliver on the promise of 
America for everyone.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Williams for 
participating.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. Ocasio-
Cortez), who represents the Bronx and Queens.
  Ms. OCASIO-CORTEZ. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding. 
We are here, Bronx boogie down caucus checking in, yerr caucus checking 
in, student loan cancellation caucus checking in because this is 
getting ridiculous. This is ridiculous.
  I am 32 years old. I am a first-generation college graduate on my 
mom's side, and growing up, I was told, since I was a child: Your 
destiny is to go to college. That is what is going to lift our family 
up and out. That is our future. That is what we are here to accomplish.

  I was 17 years old when college recruiters started coming to my high 
school saying: This is worth it.
  We still do that today because it is teenagers signing up for what is 
often hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and we just do that, 
and our government allows that. We give 17-year-olds the ability to 
sign on and sign up for $100,000 worth of debt, and we think that is 
responsible policy.
  I am 32 years old now. I have over $17,000 in student loan debt. I 
didn't go to graduate school because I knew that getting another degree 
would drown me in debt that I would never be able to surpass. This is 
unacceptable.
  Not only that, but 65 percent of all jobs in this country require an 
education beyond high school; first-generation college students are two 
times as likely to report being behind on student loan payments; and 63 
percent of borrowers who made payments with Navient during the COVID 
forbearance still owe more now than they originally borrowed. There are 
hundreds of thousands of people in this country who owe more on their 
student loans now than they did when they first took them out.
  We as a country are profiting off of insurmountable and crushing 
educational debt, and it is wrong. It is absolutely wrong. Four years 
after graduation, 48 percent of Black students owe an average of 12.5 
percent more than they originally borrowed.
  But this isn't just an issue of a debt crisis. This is an educational 
crisis in the United States of America. If we want to remain 
competitive, if we want to remain innovative, and if we need the 
technological investments necessary to address things like climate 
change, we need an educated country.
  The United States has a policy of actively disincentivizing higher 
education. We disincentivize people from getting a college or secondary 
education beyond high school. That is backward. The least we can do--we 
have a moral obligation, an economic obligation, a political obligation 
to cancel student loan debt in the United States of America.
  We have seen the benefits that this has had during the forbearance 
alone. It has given people the breathing room to do what they need to 
do so we can stop writing these ridiculous articles that young people 
are killing diamond rings, that they are not buying houses, and that 
they are killing this industry or that, that we are not having 
children. It is because we are being crushed by immoral debt.
  No person should have to go into debt, crushing debt, in order to get 
an education. It is wrong. It is backward, and it doesn't help us as a 
country. So I am greatly looking forward to that. I am greatly looking 
forward to the Biden administration canceling student loan debt and no 
longer advancing the false narrative that student loan debt is for the 
privileged.
  What a ridiculous assertion. Do we really think that a billionaire's 
child is taking student loans? Come on. Come on. If you are taking on 
student loan debt, it is because you are likely a working or middle-
class person.
  So let's get real. Let's cancel it. It is in the interest of the 
people. It is in the interest of this country. It is in the interest of 
our future.
  I thank the distinguished Representative from the Bronx and 
Westchester, Jamaal Bowman, for yielding.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez for 
taking me back to when I was 17, a senior in high school, trying to 
figure out what the heck I was going to do. I decided to go to college. 
We didn't have any money, so they offer you all this free money and 
say: There you go. You could take out as much as you want, as much as 
you need. Just come to our school, and we will take care of you.
  Then what happens is, you take on all of this debt, and then you get 
out, and you are underpaid in terms of the employment you receive. Then 
the rent is too high, and the groceries are too high, and the childcare 
is too high.
  Ms. OCASIO-CORTEZ. Will the gentleman yield?
  Mr. BOWMAN. I yield to the gentlewoman from New York.
  Ms. OCASIO-CORTEZ. And health insurance is too high.
  Mr. BOWMAN. And health insurance is too high. It is unbelievable.
  We need to cancel student debt and end the predatory practices on our 
young people, completely end the practice.
  It is my honor to now yield to the distinguished gentlewoman from 
Massachusetts (Ms. Pressley).
  Ms. PRESSLEY. Madam Speaker, I thank Congressman Bowman for yielding. 
There is nothing freshman about him. He has hit the ground running 
since he has been here, and he has been a leader and partner on many 
issues, including this issue of student debt. I thank the gentleman for 
his partnership on our congressional resolution calling for President 
Biden to provide broad-based student debt cancellation.

  Madam Speaker, I rise today on behalf of more than 45 million people 
in America crushed by the growing weight of the $1.7 trillion student 
debt crisis. The grandmother--you heard me right, the grandmother--I 
have a 76-year-old constituent in the Massachusetts Seventh still 
paying student loans, all while on Social Security and a fixed income.
  I rise on behalf of the new parents struggling to manage the 
skyrocketing costs of childcare for which Massachusetts is the second 
highest in the country, $21,000 per child for center-based care; new 
parents struggling to manage the skyrocketing cost of childcare, rent, 
and their student loan payments; the teacher who fears losing their 
teaching license because they have gone into default and can't come up 
with that monthly student loan payment, not even the minimum.

[[Page H6899]]

  The irony of it is that this is debt that they incurred in order to 
be an educator, in order to be a nation builder, to pour into our 
children, the next generation.
  I rise on behalf of an entire generation of young people, young 
people I met with a couple of weeks ago who, when I asked them about 
their future, were despondent and expressed great hopelessness: Well, I 
don't know that I am going to go to college because I don't want to be 
in debt for the rest of my life, and I fear if there will even be a 
planet for me to grow up on.
  I rise today on behalf of a whole generation of young people 
grappling with that sense of foreboding and despair, a generation of 
young folk who have been forced to hold off on pursuing education, 
starting higher education, starting a small business, purchasing a home 
because of record levels of student loan debt.
  I rise on behalf of Black and Brown folk who, due to generations of 
precise and intentional what I would characterize as policy violence, 
have been forced to take on higher rates of student debt for just a 
chance at the same degree as our White peers.

                              {time}  1915

  Madam Speaker, the student debt crisis is one that disproportionately 
impacts our Black community. For too long, the narrative has excluded 
us and the unique ways in which this debt is exacerbating racial and 
economic inequities, compounding our gender and racial wealth gap. We 
have to borrow at higher rates just for a shot at the same degree as 
our White peers.
  Black women, in particular, bear the largest burden, as they are 
forced to take on higher student debt loads, all while navigating a 
persisting wage gap that allows Black women to earn just 61 cents to 
every dollar earned by a White man. These are systemic barriers that 
make it significantly more challenging to repay this debt.
  There are some who have questioned if this is regressive in impact, 
to cancel student debt of $50,000. They have questioned the merit as to 
whether or not this is a racial justice issue. Well, ask the presidents 
of the historically Black colleges and universities who have been using 
ARPA funds to cancel student debt. Not regressive in impact. Important, 
necessary, and long overdue.
  These are systemic barriers that have existed long before this 
pandemic and unjust pre-COVID status quo.
  In this moment, as we work to build back better and do so equitably, 
President Biden has an opportunity and a responsibility and the 
authority to address the hurt and harm these communities are feeling by 
using his executive authority to cancel $50,000 in Federal student loan 
debt.
  Doing so is one of most effective ways he can provide sweeping relief 
to millions of families while helping to reduce the racial wealth gap 
to lay the groundwork for an equitable and just long-term recovery.
  This is a crisis created through policy decisions, and we have a 
responsibility to address it head on. In this moment of ongoing crisis, 
our families need every bit of help that they can get.
  In just under 2 months, student debt payments are scheduled to resume 
for millions of families across this country. Families who have been 
struggling to make ends meet throughout this pandemic, through no fault 
of their own in this pandemic-induced recession, will have an 
additional bill to cover.
  I have parents in my district in their fifties still paying on their 
student loans and now helping their children pay for their student 
loans. This is an intergenerational crisis.
  This summer, we applauded the Biden administration for heeding the 
calls of many of us here tonight, heeding the calls of this movement, 
the movement that elected him, when they extended the pause on student 
loan payments. We fought hard for that.
  This welcome action gave another layer of protection to the millions 
of borrowers facing a disastrous financial cliff. But our work here is 
unfinished.
  This isn't a question as to whether or not he has the authority, 
because that authority has already been exercised. The same authority 
should be used to extend the payment pause. President Biden must now 
cancel at least $50,000 in student debt to boost the economy and to 
close the racial wealth gap.
  In this moment of a so-called reckoning on racial injustice, the only 
receipts that matter are policies and budgets.
  The truth, Madam Speaker, is that this economic crisis is far from 
over. Families in the Seventh District of Massachusetts and all across 
the country are continuing to struggle to make ends meet. Failure to 
act would be unconscionable, so we must move with urgency.
  As we continue the work of building a just and equitable recovery 
from the current economic crisis, broad-based, across-the-board, and 
permanent student debt cancellation must remain front and center.
  The people, including the broad and diverse coalition that elected 
President Biden, demand, deserve, and require nothing less.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Pressley for her 
words.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Michigan (Ms. Tlaib).
  Ms. TLAIB. Madam Speaker, I thank so much Representative Bowman for 
hosting this critically important Special Order hour tonight.
  Representative Bowman said something that really resonated with me. 
When I was a senior in high school, they really did make it sound like 
that money was free. That money was far from free, as we know.
  Students in our country have become profit centers. They really, 
truly have, and it is ruining lives.
  One of the first ever townhalls I had when I first got elected was in 
western Wayne, in Wayne County, Michigan.
  A young lady, after I opened it up for questions, stood up. She stood 
up very strong and looked over at me and started crying, in tears, 
telling me just how incredibly hard it is to be able to survive, become 
a homeowner, to be able to move on. She told me about how much it felt 
like she was trapped, like she was hostage to the student loan debt, 
and the fact that all she wanted to do was give back. She wanted to get 
her degree and come back to the community that raised her, come back to 
the community and give back, and it was so incredibly hard.
  Today, as we hear over and over again, 15 million of our neighbors 
across our country owe trillions in outstanding student debt. That 
alone should resonate with so many of my colleagues. This must become a 
national priority.
  One of the things that I think is important, as we hear about these 
stories, is the human impact. I was the first in my family to graduate 
from high school. My father only went up to a 4th grade education, my 
mother, an 8th grade education. My father came here at 19 years old. 
They could have never imagined, of course, their daughter being able to 
graduate from high school and go on to college. Yes, I worked full-time 
Monday through Friday and took weekend classes to get my law degree and 
still had close to $200,000 in debt. I still owe over $70,000, and most 
of it is interest. Most of it was our own government making money and 
profit off of me.
  And guess what? I didn't go to work for the for-profit entities. I 
went to legal aid. I worked at the nonprofit organization fighting for 
the right to breathe clean air, to fight for the worker that was 
getting their wage taken and stolen by their employer. I worked on 
immigrant rights and so much more.
  All of that is to say, we have to stop treating folks paying for 
their education as if they bought some bougie car or something big, 
something beyond them. But, no, they were seeking an education.
  As many of my colleagues will tell you, there is that counselor in 
the hallway that would pull us aside and say, Rashida, where is your 
application for college? You have got to apply. And I am like, I am the 
eldest of 14, Coach Watson--it was Coach Perry Watson at Southwestern 
High School. He still remembers pulling me into his office because he 
didn't get an application from me--and I said, I am the eldest of 14; I 
can't go--my parents are working-class folks; my dad worked on the line 
at Ford Motor Company--and say, Hey, dad, help me out here; I want to 
go to college.
  So all of that is to say, yeah, they sat us down. Of course, there 
was the Pell grant and all of that. Of course, there was. But at the 
end, it was still a

[[Page H6900]]

struggle. It was still a struggle. Because guess what, some of that 
money you couldn't use for certain things. I remember this. They 
changed stuff a little bit after I graduated. But still, I had to work. 
I had to figure out how to pay for the gas to get to the school and so 
much more.
  But I think it is really important to know, in my home State of 
Michigan, I think the average loan borrower now is close to $35,000 in 
debt. You have to add on the healthcare costs, the rent, the utilities, 
car payments, and so much more to just really live your life.
  So the majority of our American people, our neighbors right now, 
educated or not, live check by check. They literally live check by 
check. Add to that the average of $250 or more for student loans, it is 
really holding people back.
  When I look at my State--my district is the third poorest 
congressional district in the country. When I look at the eyes and look 
at the families that I represent and they come to our townhalls and 
talk about the struggles and ``please help, make government about 
people, make it about us, put us first.'' One of the things that I 
continue to hear, the common theme is: We didn't do anything wrong. We 
just went to go get access to higher education. They feel like they are 
being penalized. They feel, truly, that the interest rates--I read 
this--that the interest rates are one of the silent killers when it 
comes to debt repayment. They feel like they are being punished for 
doing something that they were taught to do, right? They go to college, 
do right, work hard, and they feel like they are being penalized.
  The cost of education in our country just continues to increase. We 
all know that. We see it over and over again. So what sounds like 
something that can't be solved, that it is something impossible, it 
actually is not that complex.
  President Biden has the ability, his administration has the ability, 
with the stroke of a pen, to help millions of our neighbors across the 
country to get out of student debt.
  We are far from putting this pandemic behind us. It has been a 
struggle for many of us. Yes, these payments are going to be coming 
due. Folks are so anxious about it, even planning now. Folks are 
sending me messages on social media, What do I do about Christmas? 
Because I know around the corner, I have got to start repaying the 
student loans.
  It is difficult to put into words just how big of a difference 
relieving this heavy burden would make in the lives of so many of my 
residents.
  I am grateful to stand here with many of my colleagues joining in 
this fight. Rarely, if ever, in politics are you presented with an easy 
solution to such an impossible problem. But this one isn't. This one is 
pretty easy. We are the ones. The government is profiting off of 
people, and we have got to stop.
  I think when we, again, make government about people and we put them 
first, then I think it is going to be an easy decision for the 
administration and for President Biden to come up with the plan that is 
needed to really help that young lady that came to my townhall, and so 
many others, in making this a national priority.
  I can tell you, they all know, and they were all doing what they were 
supposed to be doing and at the end, they are still struggling.
  I know my colleague is not a millionaire, but I always like reminding 
people of this. The majority of my colleagues in this Chamber are. They 
don't understand the struggle of living check by check. They don't 
understand. Some of them may not be close in understanding the pain of 
that student loan debt that is really heavy on so many families.
  So I stand here in solidarity with my colleagues in saying, let's do 
the right thing, let's make this a national priority, let's get an 
executive order done, and let's help millions of Americans that did 
nothing wrong except wanting to access a higher education which, as 
they were told, was access to a beautiful, vibrant life in our country.
  Again, we can't continue to make them a profit center. We have to 
make them our priority, and they deserve to be able to live and thrive 
in our country.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Tlaib so much for 
her powerful words.
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson 
Lee).
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from New York 
for both his leadership and his inspiration. He obviously cares. That 
is why he is on the floor tonight.
  I think that is the point that I want to make. It looks as if we are 
lonely on this floor tonight. It looks as if we are in the eve of the 
day's work. It looks as if we could be somewhere else.
  I can tell you, being from a district in Houston that is surrounded 
by universities, and I know that I will get someone in trouble for 
trying to call the roll of the universities around the 18th 
Congressional District, like the historic Texas Southern University, 
University of Houston, University of St. Thomas, Houston Baptist 
University, Lone Star College, Houston Community College, and San 
Jacinto College. I know someone is texting me right now. But I am full 
of college students, all of them working very hard.

  I thought I would bring to the floor today the Constitution. I love 
the words of the Declaration of Independence, the opening words, that 
we are all created equal with certain inalienable rights of life, 
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  Does that mean the students that are right now struggling to make 
ends meet--I think of that famous noodle meal that they eat because 
they just don't have the money to survive--does that mean that one 
person, that is still the first person to go to college, in 2021, the 
single mother that has made it to 20-something hours, has to drop out?
  America has always said that the American Dream is defined singularly 
by your presence here in the United States. Yet, we are finding that 
State and Federal policymakers are ignoring the $1,730,000,000 plus of 
national student debt and that one-sixth of the American people, 
47,900,000, about that number, are indebted to student debt. That is 
why we are here on the floor today, recognizing that it also is an 
imbalance.

                              {time}  1930

  I thank Mr. Bowman, an educator, who has seen little babies grow up 
with little stars in their eyes. They can play a piano or they can play 
an instrument or he sees them playing on the field of recreation, and 
they are little scientists, scholars, but yet the hopes and dreams of 
the opportunity is somewhat denied.
  Black families must take on more debt for the same degree as White 
students and often need to get several degrees in order to be in the 
middle class. The burden of student debt reaches deep into communities 
of color. Increasing evidence suggests that it is hampering the ability 
to build wealth.
  One of the reasons my good friend and myself are also interested in 
the idea of the commission to study slavery and develop reparation 
proposals is to get a roadmap of some of the populations that are 
impacted negatively by student debt.
  Default and delinquency rates on student loans remain appallingly 
high. 3.6 million students are in the State of Texas. The Nation 
carries $1.7 trillion debt, and we know that 79 percent of Black 
students had student loan debt by their fourth year. We know it impacts 
our Latinx families and families that come from rural communities. We 
are concerned about them.
  I hold in my hand the Constitution, as I said. I don't know how many 
students have time to even look in that direction, but I will tell them 
that the Founding Fathers, although not perfect, said that they came 
together to create a more perfect Union.
  And what does that mean? I think it means, give us hope, give us a 
lifeline, let us breathe, and let us be able to buy the things that 
will help our families. Let us not, as a Black male borrower, default 
on loans within 12 years of beginning school.
  This, of course, covers the gamut of all of America. It is not just 
the issue of people of color. It impacts older borrowers, 60 and older, 
whose numbers swelled from 700,000 in 2005 to 2.8 million in 2018. 
Their debt load was $8.2 billion. Can you imagine being 60 and older 
and still paying debt?
  I came here to the floor tonight because I have wanted to join the 
gentleman for people to see that in spite of the fact that we are here 
at a moment

[[Page H6901]]

into the evening, we care about getting this done. It must be the 
Congress and the administration that takes ahold of this and determines 
that people who are now struggling to pay mortgages, to survive, to 
feed children, we hope the Build Back Better bill will be a lifeline, 
but right now we have got to deal with people who wanted to do right 
and are suffering.
  I want to close on this note: To create a more perfect Union, the 
Constitution guarantees me that. The Declaration of Independence says 
that this Nation was created to ensure the inalienable rights of life, 
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  And I want to say to those who have gained student debt but never 
completed their degree, they are not in any way bad people, defaulters, 
deadbeats; no, they are not. The Constitution applies to all. But they 
are people who are working in jobs just to survive. They wanted to 
finish school, but they were so overloaded; maybe they had to leave to 
take care of a sick mother or a sick father or maybe they had to leave 
to take care of younger brothers and sisters. I know those stories. But 
maybe they are now back in school struggling to just try to get that 
degree.
  Let's give them hope. Let's give them dignity. Let's help them with 
that default and turn it into success. Let's join in--Congressman, 
thank you--to cancel student loan debt. And we are not frivolous, big 
spenders. We are trying to put people on the right track so that they 
can contribute to this great economy and be givers, givers for what is 
good in America. I hope we can get the job done.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Thank you so much, Congresswoman Jackson Lee. You made me 
think of the hundreds or even thousands of students and families that I 
have met throughout my career in education who in elementary school 
have already made the decision that their children are not going to 
attempt to go to college despite their brilliance, despite them being 
artists and scientists and architects and engineers and athletes and 
musicians and all of those things.
  Because of the crippling impact of student debt and cost of college, 
they have already made the decision when kids are as young as 5, 6 
years old. That is unconscionable, that is un-American, and the 
President has the authority and the moral responsibility to cancel 
student debt right now. Thank you so much for your words.
  I yield to the gentleman from California (Mr. Gomez), the last 
speaker of the evening. I thank him for being here.
  Mr. GOMEZ. Madam Speaker, I thank Mr. Bowman for organizing this 
Special Order hour.
  I like to describe the student loan debt crisis as a boot on the neck 
of the American Dream and on the neck of millions of Americans who make 
that American Dream a reality. And that is because higher education is 
the one way that we achieve the American Dream. It is what I did.
  I am the youngest of six of immigrant parents from Mexico. My two 
parents never made it past third grade. Both could read but not really 
write. One of the things that they knew is that coming here would give 
me that opportunity to change my life. I was fortunate enough to be 
born here. My brother Javier and I were born here, and I was one of the 
first to graduate from college.
  It allowed me to believe that I could do more, to believe I could be 
part of this country, and about that American promise. You come here, 
you believe in our values, you work hard, you give back, you are going 
to have a place, and you are going to succeed; and the next generation, 
your kids and your grandkids, are going to do even better.
  I am fortunate. I got to go to a community college after I worked at 
Subway and Target, and then I transferred to UCLA, graduated in the top 
10 percent of my class. Then I got my master's of public policy 
from Harvard University.

  I ended up walking away with $15,000 in debt from undergrad, which 
wasn't bad. I thought it was a lot of money. When you graduate, and you 
are only getting paid $24,000 a year, it was a lot of money. And I 
walked away with a little bit over $65,000 from the Kennedy School for 
my master's degree. And don't forget, a lot of students also have 
credit card debt on top of that.
  But you know what, I am fortunate that I got to go to school. I am 
fortunate that I have been able to change my life. I am fortunate that 
I have been able to get jobs that provide me health insurance for the 
first time in my family's history, and that my debt isn't as crippling 
as the current generation's debt.
  The current generation's debt after the Great Recession ballooned to 
historic proportions. That is why you have trillions of dollars in 
student loan debt on the backs of 47 million Americans.
  You know what? These are dreamers; these are people who believe in 
the American Dream, that say, you know what, I have been told, go to 
school, work hard. And you know what, it doesn't matter, if you get 
into the best school possible, take out that debt because it is going 
to come back tenfold. In the past, that was the case.
  But we don't see that now. We see that the debt that has been put on 
the backs--because we underinvested in higher education, we 
underinvested in K-12--is crippling people to living their version of 
the American Dream.
  It is so severe, and it pains me and it depresses me, that people are 
actually are deciding, I would rather not go to college because I don't 
want to have debt. Think about that. That is the decision people are 
making now, I would rather not have the best opportunity to achieve the 
American Dream because the amount of debt will prevent me from living 
that American Dream once I graduate.
  I think that is shameful because these are the folks that are 
renewing this idea to live a more just and perfect Union, to refresh 
that idea generation upon generation. And it is unfortunate because who 
does it impact? It often impacts immigrants, people of color, Blacks, 
Latinos, single mothers, single parents. They are the ones that are 
taking on higher and higher burdens of debt.
  Then when they graduate, they sometimes get jobs that don't pay them 
that well because they want to give back. They care about their 
communities. We saw in a recent New York Times article that graduates 
from a school of social work were graduating with $112,000 in debt but 
getting paid $50,000. This is something that we see time and time 
again.
  If people want to believe in the American Dream, then they have to 
care about canceling student loan debt; to refresh the potential of 
millions of Americans to buy their first house, to raise children, to 
start a business, to grow our economy. I believe that this is something 
that Americans from all sides of the aisle could agree on.
  Madam Speaker, I am calling on the President to cancel $50,000 of 
student loan debt in the next year.
  Mr. BOWMAN. Madam Speaker, I thank Congressman Gomez for his powerful 
and inspiring words.
  President Biden and his administration have made some important 
strides to improve student loan debt for many people who are enrolled 
in public service loan forgiveness. 30,000 people getting loan 
forgiveness is a big step in the right direction. Now we need loan 
forgiveness for the more than 40 million other people in this country.
  Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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