Op-Ed: Not canceling student debt fails the black and brown communities that turned out to vote for you.
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Since taking office, the Biden-Harris administration has canceled $17 billion in student loan debt. This aid targeted borrowers who attended now-defunct schools, people with disabilities, government workers, and people with private loans from Navient.
It is not enough. $17 billion? Not by far. Following a recent meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, reports are circulating that President Biden is considering an additional loan forgiveness in the coming months. However, Biden also said that a a debt reduction of $50,000 per borrower is not contemplated and instead contemplates canceling at least $10,000 of debt per student. It also plans to limit the income from this aid. If he really wants to advance racial equity, he will have to reconsider his approach.
While the administration’s actions on debt write-offs have been significant for the borrowers they have benefited from, $17 billion barely scratches the surface at $1.74 student debt crisis. In April, the Department of Education announced it would take steps to bring borrowers closer to income-contingent utility loans and debt cancellation. The move would result in the immediate loan forgiveness of at least 40,000 borrowers under the government’s student loan forgiveness program. However, the announcement pointed out that borrowers can expect to repay their student loans in the near future. As a black woman with over $50,000 in college debt, I can’t wait to see a stronger debt cancellation policy because my future depends on it. And like Leslie Mac Notedborrowers who now benefit from the public service debt relief (PSLF) are only 40,000 out of the 43 million burdened day after day by this debt.
Further, this reality ignores how the ongoing and likely permanent economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession have made this student debt crisis worse for borrowers, their families, and the economy. in general.
Mere extensions of the student loan pause – on payments, interest and collections – are insufficient, as millions of indebted households remain trapped in the economic turmoil that has characterized this ongoing COVID crisis and the economy that has caused it. preceded. If Biden allows payments to resume, he will be tasked with helping to erase the meager progress of our uneven economic recovery by pushing millions of borrowers further into precariousness.
Black graduates remain trampled by student debt. This administration already knows that four years after graduation, 48% of black students owe an average of 12.5% more than they originally borrowed. And for black women – the most educated demographic group in the United States and people who are overwhelmed by student debt and facing heavier educational burdens than their white classmates – little was done to alleviate their obstacles. Yet it was these people and communities that offered President Biden and Vice President Harris their victory in 2020. Black voters and black women organizers showed up in part because of the campaign. promise to cancel student debt.
These borrowers deserve broader provisions for student loan debt forgiveness as a remedy to the predatory and racist college funding system that has plunged them into debt condemnation. But so far, the Biden-Harris administration is taking a parsimonious approach and band-aid for a gaping, infected wound — and playing with the lives of the communities that put them in place. Our economy and our people need complete debt cancellation.
There are ample evidence supporting the wisdom of canceling student loans rather than relying on incremental solutions to a structural problem. As Biden ponders the next iteration of cancellation, he should consider the fairest approach to unraveling the student debt crisis he helped create. The best way to do this is through a universal approach to debt cancellation, which will free people of color from financial oppression, create long-term relief for all who bear this debt condemnation. and will give our economy a broad- based lift.
Charlisa Goodlet is Policy Coordinator at Liberation in a Generation and lead contributor to the “Remaking Higher Education” section of the Black Women Best Congress report.