U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez introduced a bill Wednesday mandating the Secretary of Education to provide federal student loan forgiveness amounting to $25,000 for borrowers, a bill intended to provide $775.5 billion in debt relief to more than 40 million.
A news release from Gonzalez’s office notes that student loan debt is more prevalent than ever, with 69% of college students taking out loans to pay for higher education.
Gonzalez, D-McAllen, says the impact those loans have inspired HR 8514, the Student Loan Relief Bill, along with predatory interest rates and the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking Wednesday, Gonzalez said he feels the trillions of dollars funneled into the economy since the pandemic began has largely failed to help young college students and graduates.
“I just couldn’t believe that we didn’t have a portion of that set for young Americans who are overburdened with student loan debt,” he said. “We have more student loan debt than any country in the world and we have been churning out resources for any segment of American society, but we really never focused on these young American’s who went to school or went to trade school and come out with these debts that are equivalent to another rental payment or another mortgage payment or a car payment, and I really think it slows them down from being upwardly mobile in a lot of ways.”
Gonzalez says it’s not difficult for him to understand the plight of those students. The congressman says it took him years to pay off the student debt he’d racked up in school, almost $100,000 worth.
“I had these great ideas to work for government or social causes, but I couldn’t afford to do those type of jobs because I had a student loan debt that was more expensive than my rent when I got out of law school and it took me years working as a trial lawyer to pay those loans back,” he said.
The hefty price tag attached to Gonzalez’s proposal is bound to meet resistance in Washington. Gonzalez, however, believes the bill is as economically sound as it is ethical.
“At $25,000 or less, that gets 70% of American student loan borrowers relief,” he said. “If you have more than that in student loan debt, then you just discount that $25,000 under my proposal. So it’s a small burden to bear as a country and we’re helping a group of people that are really the young Americans who are trying to improve themselves and get better educated and better trained. At the end of the day, because of this education and training, they’re also able to pay more tax revenues. So in a sense we already will recover all of these resources by their education, but also this brings up income that will be expended into the economy anyway.”
HR 8514 faces an uncertain future, but not one that’s necessarily negative.
Politics will likely play a large role in what becomes of the effort. A Biden-Harris victory or changes in the senate could lead to opportunities for progressive legislation like the Student Loan Relief Bill, Gonzalez says.
At the very least, Gonzalez added that the bill has started a conversation about student loan forgiveness in Washington, one he doesn’t intend to stop discussing.
“Between now and the end of the year will be a rough ride, but at least now it’s a topic of conversation,” he said. “If we weren’t to vote on it by the end of the year because of all the chaos in Washington, you can assure that I’m going to file it first thing in January again.”