Eugene High School Graduate Testifies to Senate Finance Committee

Eighteen-year-old Amber Lee, a graduate of Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore., testified Tuesday in front of Ron Wyden and the Senate Finance Committee, discussing how a difficult upbringing – and daunting student loans – hasn’t deterred her from her dreams of becoming a physician.

But when Amber – who lives in a low-income, single-parent household – and her mother investigated their options for financing her higher education, nobody told them about the resources available in the tax code to help her lower her debt burden from the start.

Watch Amber's conversation with Senator Wyden about her experience testifying:

Amber, a diligent student who participated in extra-curricular activities throughout high school, will attend the honors program at Portland State University in the fall. But despite scholarships, grants and government loans, she still owes PSU nearly $10,000 in tuition for this year alone. Living paycheck-to-paycheck and struggling just to open a bank account because of low credit, Amber and her mother were unable to save for higher education. Amber is working at a local Dairy Queen over the summer in hopes of putting a dent in her education costs.

It is absolutely appalling to me that students experience so many disheartening financial setbacks just for trying to further their post high school education,” Amber said. “We are immersed in a culture that supports the freedom to challenge ourselves, to search for new knowledge, and to gain meaningful careers, but we are constantly refused the opportunity to do so through the lack of options we have when it comes to paying for education. The idea of a college education has become only possible for the privileged, and that needs to change now.”

Wyden called on the committee to make education tax incentives more accessible for all Americans by simplifying them so they are user-friendly and get students and families the help they need.

Watch Amber's full testimony:

The best tweets from Amber's testimony: