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Clyburn, Warren Want to Cancel Student Loan Debts for Nearly 42 Million Americans

June 14, 2019 by Elin Johnson

WASHINGTON – House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said this week they plan to introduce legislation to cancel student loan debt for nearly 42 million borrowers.

“For far too many students and families, the cost of higher education has meant daunting debt and a lifetime of student loan repayments,” Clyburn said in a written statement.

“We need to allow people to get the kind of post-secondary education that will help them achieve their dreams and aspirations, and earn a living to become productive members of society,” Clyburn said.

“I look forward to working with Senator Warren on this legislation that will provide affordable access to education for all Americans and attempts to make amends for the under investment made in higher education at the state and federal level for over two decades,” he said.

As for Warren, who will be among the 2020 hopefuls flocking to Columbia, South Carolina next week to attend Clyburn’s “World Famous Fish Fry” on June 21, one day ahead of the South Carolina Democratic Party’s annual convention, she said it’s clear “the student debt crisis is real and [is] crushing millions of people.”

“It’s time to decide are we going to be a country that only helps the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful, or are we going to be a country that invests in its future?” she said.

The bicameral legislation, which Clyburn and Warren said will be filed “in coming weeks,” would eliminate up to $50,000 in debt for 95% of student borrowers, and for 75% of borrowers their debt would be completely cancelled. The finer points of the legislation have yet to be disclosed.

The lawmakers noted that black and Latino borrowers are disproportionately impacted by student loan debt, and said their bill would help shrink the wealth gap between those populations and white borrowers.

In a joint statement, Clyburn and Warren said outstanding student loans now total nearly $1.5 trillion in the U.S., more than triple the debt young people held thirty years ago.

Almost 45 million Americans have student loan debt, and nearly 7.2 million are in default on those loans, as they face stagnant wages and rising costs of living, they said.

Black and Latino Americans face the worst effects of the student debt crisis, with many still owing more than 100 percent of their loan balance 12 years after college, even with a degree in hand, they added.

Over the past several months, Clyburn has announced joint initiatives with a number of contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he maintains he’s staying out of the 2020 race and doesn’t plan to endorse a specific candidate.

In 2004, he did endorse Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., over Senator John Edwards, D-N.C., and in 2016, he endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over Senator Bernie Sanders.

He mostly stayed out of the 2008 primaries, but did offer support to then-Senator Barack Obama in the face of campaign trail attacks lobbed against him by Bill Clinton.

This year, Clyburn told NPR, “I promised the party that I would help them make South Carolina relevant in the presidential [election], and I’ve been told by more than one person that if I were to make a formal endorsement in this campaign, the rest of the candidates would stay out of the state.”

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