Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressman James Clyburn conduct a town hall meeting at S.C. State. (Panther photo by Tariq Edwards)
With 45 million Americans holding more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, S.C. Congressman James E. Clyburn and Massachusetts Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren are proposing a legislative solution.
The two held a town hall meeting at South Carolina State University on Oct. 9 to promote their Student Loan Debt Relief Act. They selected historically black S.C. State as a site to emphasize the negative impact of student debt on students at HBCUs.
“Student loans impact many students and graduates across the country, but we are paying close attention to the impact it has on students and grads at historically black colleges and universities,” Clyburn said.
"We're disproportionately crushing a generation of students of color,” Warren said. “That is not how a country builds a future and we gotta change that."
Clyburn said HBCUs and the students they educate are vital.
"HBCUs take diamonds from the sea islands and other underserved communities and they take those students and help turn those diamonds from roughness to valuable commodities,” he said.
“We’re not going to get this through before 2021. ... We want to lift it up now, we want to build momentum, we want to build pressure behind it,” Warren said of the legislation she is sponsoring along with Clyburn.
The Student Loan Debt Relief Act would substantially reduce the black-white and Latina-white wealth gaps, while increasing wealth for black and Latinx families.
“We wipe out the existing student loans debt and then we set up pathways so nobody has to take on this debt ... in the future,” Warren said.
The act would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for borrowers with $100,000 or less in household gross income. Also, it would provide automatic cancellation using data already available to the federal government about household income and outstanding student loan debt.
Clyburn and Warren say the legislation will boost the economy through:
● Consumer-driven economic stimulus
● Improved credit scores
● Greater home-buying rates and household stability
● Higher college completion rates
● Greater business formation
The elected leaders point to the damage student debt is doing to individual economies and to the economy overall.
“If you don't have anybody who's dealing with student loan debt, you still should care because it is affecting our entire economy,” Warren said.
They argue that stagnant wages, labor market discrimination and rising costs of living have made it nearly impossible for individuals to repay their student debt.
Over the last five years, student loan debt has grown by 30% in the Palmetto State, according to Experian.
Congressman James Clyburn and Sen Elizabeth Warren talk about student debt. (Panther photo by Nygel Gates)