Canceling Student Debt is a Racial Justice Issue

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JANUARY UPDATE: President Biden announced that he will extend the pause on student loan payments until May 1st. This provides a brief respite, but he still can and must cancel student debt for millions of people.

The Biden administration just officially announced that millions of people will need to begin student loan payments again on February 1st. 

Restarting payments in the middle of a pandemic will devastate millions of families. Even before the pandemic, many people were behind on student loan payments. And according to a new study, 89% of U.S. borrowers will not be able to afford to begin making student loan payments again. This includes fully-employed people, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck.

Fortunately, this crisis is not complicated to solve. Nearly all student loans are held by the federal government, and with one swipe of a pen, President Biden could free millions of our neighbors from the crushing burden of student loan debt.

While on the campaign trail, President Biden promised to cancel a minimum of $10,000 in student loan debt for every borrower. We’ve got to demand that he keep his campaign promise and cancel student loan debt, rather than letting student debt relief expire.

I was the first in my family to go to college, and then law school. And I’m still paying off my student loan debt. 

In my district, the third poorest in the country, I’ve heard a common theme from my neighbors and the families I represent: They feel like they’re being punished for something they were taught to do. 

Student loan borrowers have done nothing wrong. They simply wanted to access higher education, which they were told was the path to a vibrant life in our country. But instead, they’ve been crushed under ongoing debt, paying mostly interest rather than paying down their loans. 

Canceling student loan debt is not only an economic justice issue but also a racial justice issue, and it would help to close the racial wealth gap. 

With less generational wealth to begin with, Black borrowers are continually up against the barriers of structural racism and less able to pay off their loans. A recent report found that: 

“Twenty years after starting college, the median debt of White borrowing students has been reduced by 94 percent — with almost half holding no student debt — whereas Black borrowers at the median still owe 95 percent of their cumulative borrowing total.”

Canceling student debt would restore access to education as a right and relieve a heavy burden from struggling families. 

President Biden has the authority to help millions of borrowers around the country without waiting for Congress to act. NOW is the time for him to act to cancel student loan debt, rather than letting student loan relief expire.

Thank you for pushing for a government that works for all of us. 

In solidarity,