“Today’s hearing was an opportunity to provide members of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development with a clearer picture of how to strengthen our nation’s higher education system and reduce the burden of student debt.
“A college degree remains a strong investment for most Americans. However, even after federal, state, and college grant aid, costs remain high enough that most students cannot enroll without taking on debt. For decades, the federal government and states have underinvested in students and public colleges – where more than 75 percent of undergraduate students enroll – and tuition increases have far outpaced inflation. At the same time, grant aid has not kept up with rising costs; the federal Pell Grant covers just 26 percent of the cost of attending public four-year college — the lowest share in the program’s 50-year history.
“Taken together, these trends helped drive a 56 percent increase in the average debt held by bachelor’s degree recipients over a 15-year period, well outpacing inflation. Unsurprisingly, even before the pandemic injected unprecedented economic uncertainty into the equation, too many student loan borrowers were struggling. By the end of 2019, 25 percent of all Direct Loan borrowers were either delinquent or in default, with more than one million borrowers entering default in 2019 alone.
“My testimony focused on the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to address these troubling trends by providing relief to existing borrowers and working to address the root causes of the crisis. We urge policymakers to work together to protect the 44 million Americans who hold student debt from economic hardship — and to stop the student debt pile-up for good by doubling the Pell Grant, partnering with states to lower college costs, and holding colleges accountable for keeping costs down and providing a quality education.
“I thank Chairman Burgess Owens and Ranking Member Frederica Wilson for the opportunity to participate in today’s hearing and look forward to continuing this important discussion with Members of Congress and the administration.”