Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren will be in western Massachusetts on Tuesday with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley to talk about canceling student debt. The two are touring the state with additional stops in Boston, Brockton, Worcester and Springfield to encourage those eligible for President Joe Biden’s pardon program to sign up.
Announced in August, the plan forgives $10,000 of student loan debt for individuals – and an additional $10,000 for Pell Grant recipients. US Department of Education estimates the program will cost the government $30 billion a year for the next decade. Americans currently collectively owe about $1.75 trillion in student loan debt. While a lawsuit from six Republican-controlled states stalled the plan in federal appeals court, the Biden administration has said it still intends to overturn it. Warren told WAMC why she was heading to Springfield Technical Community College on Tuesday afternoon.
WARREN: It’s really exciting. You know that President Biden has forgiven the student loan debt of approximately 43 million Americans. And that’s about 850,000 people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who will have some or all of their debt forgiven. So Congresswoman Pressley and I are going out to Springfield Technical Community College on Tuesday. We’ll be there at 4:45 just to rally people to make sure everyone who is eligible signs up to get their debt forgiven, and to encourage people to come out and spread the word. You know, tell your sister, tell your mother, tell your cousin, tell your neighbor, because I want to make sure everyone in the Commonwealth who is eligible for this liberation actually gets it.
WAMC: So what’s at stake here? What are people missing out on if they don’t take advantage of this program?
Well, if someone was a Pell beneficiary when they were in two-year college, four-year college, technical school, they are entitled to up to $20,000 in loan debt student canceled, disappeared, erased from the books. If they weren’t eligible for Pell, they have the right to reverse about $10,000, off the books. Now this only applies to people with incomes below $125,000. And I’m just going to be blunt here – Most people who have this debt and are going to get relief have a household income below about $75,000. But it’s an easy, easy form to go online to check it out. It’s under studentaid.gov, and it is a very simple form and you can find out right away if you are entitled to a cancellation. Fill out the form, it takes a few minutes. And here’s the best part – The cancellation is going to happen in a few weeks, and that means – I want you to think about it from a personal perspective. That means people who’ve been under that weight, that means people who couldn’t think of moving out of mom’s basement, or buying a car, couldn’t think of buying a house, for some haven’t been able to start a small business, or haven’t been able to start a family, that they can get rid of that debt and really build a more secure economic future.
Let’s talk brass thumbtacks. When you talk about the impact of student debt on American society, on the Commonwealth, what are the big numbers that are relevant here? What does this mean materially for the people of Massachusetts?
Well, what that mainly means for the people of Massachusetts, for the 850,000 who will be eligible for debt cancellation here, is that they can just stabilize themselves financially. Now, as you know, there has been no student loan repayment so far for this, it’s been two and a half years during the pandemic. But those payments are set to begin in January. And on average, they cost around $400 per month. So being able to erase or reduce your student loan debt will have a big impact month-over-month for people in the future. And that’s going to be a really big deal.
Now this legislation is just the start of an effort to address a problem that will certainly continue long after this, the impact of this is being felt. And certainly, you had your own bigger ambitions for bigger versions of this same program. What comes next for Democrats to build on this and continue to reduce student loan debt in America?
Excellent question. So let me give you the second part, because we’re also going to do that on Tuesday, and that’s the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program. So you might remember for anyone… Think who is in the public service. Public school teachers, firefighters, police officers, people who work for the city or county or for the state or federal government, nurses who work in nonprofit hospitals. All, under current law, were entitled to take out public service debt forgiveness. And after 10 years of payments, they get the remaining debt erased. Well, it turns out the loan officers were really bad at it, and they put people in the wrong programs, they sent them off to the wrong places that gave them the wrong information. And so a lot of people who could have gotten help didn’t. By October 31st, by Halloween, people who are in the civil service are entitled to get what is called a waiver to participate in the new civil service loan forgiveness program and have all their previous payments count towards their 10 years, and when they reach that 10-year mark, clear the remaining debt. So that’s going to help a lot of our teachers, firefighters and nurses. This is the next step. But we have more than that! Want to hear about it?
I certainly would.
Okay, from there we have to continue to reduce, obviously, student loan debt. But we also need to take a closer look at how to prevent this debt from building up again in the future. And that means we need to make college more affordable. And to do that will take a combination of our state and federal governments to provide enough support to our public colleges and universities so that no one has to shoulder crippling debt to get a technical certificate, or to to obtain a two-year degree, or to obtain a four-year degree. For me, it’s about how we think about building a future, and we’re building a future by making investments, roads and bridges. We are building a future by investing in broadband. We are building a future by investing in the education of our people and helping people prepare for a 21st century economy. As a nation, I believe we need to make these investments so that everyone who wants to get that education can get it without being burdened with student debt. That’s what’s left in the future, and that’s part of what’s on the ballot in November. So that’s what the Democrats are fighting for, and that’s why I’m fighting alongside them
I wanted to hear your opinion on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regarding the unconstitutionality of the funding structure. What do you think about this? I know you’ve already fought backbut I kind of want to cut to the bone here- What’s going on with the desktop?
Well, first they got the law wrong. And second, it’s really reckless. So let’s do the first. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is funded similarly to the Federal Reserve, which, by the way, is not the only banking regulator that is not funded by appropriations. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is the primary banking supervisory board, and the FDIC, you know, which provides this great insurance to make sure the money will be there, you know, if you have money in a current account, all are financed outside loans. And that means the Senate doesn’t vote or Congress doesn’t vote on them every year, and that’s been the case since 1863, when the first federal banking regulator was put in place. And you know, the reason was pretty obvious. And it was that basically, as one nation said, it’s not a good idea for politicians to have financial control over these banking regulatory agencies, because they’ll be under too much political pressure. That’s how it was set up from the start. There is nothing abnormal about the CFPB. But that’s part of what makes this decision so reckless. When the Fifth Circuit says, no, I’m fair, they’re just declaring the whole agency unconstitutional, they’re actually trying, I think, to try to say that all the regulations that the agency has put in place to protect people on residential mortgages and credit cards and payday loans – are they saying it just goes away? And are they saying that, at least in the Fifth Circuit, they don’t recognize the Federal Reserve Bank? They don’t recognize the banking supervisors from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency? They don’t recognize FDIC insurance? This is just one of those opinions you just have to shake your head about how these guys are doing politics instead of doing their job and applying the law as it is written.