Massachusetts lawmakers are venturing forward in the fight to eliminate student loan debt, calling for President Joe Biden to cancel $50,000 in debt for each of the roughly 44 million Americans who are burdened with federal student loans.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have been vocal supporters of the measure and will be joined by several of their colleagues at a press conference on Thursday to reintroduce legislation urging President Biden to use his executive power to act. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alma Adams, Squad Member Rep. Ilhan Omar, and newly elected Rep. Mondaire Jones will also make appearances.
“After 20 years, only five percent of whites have student debt, but 95 percent of African Americans have debt. The wealth gap in America between Black and white is one of our greatest problems, and amazingly enough, one of the greatest ways, quickest ways to cure a good chunk of it is to get rid of that 50,000 in debt,” said Schumer.
“Cancelling student loan debt would help close the Black-white, wealth gap by 28 points for African Americans and by a similar number for Latinos,” Warren said.
The argument to cancel student loan debt ramped up amidst the global pandemic where Black and brown borrowers in particular have suffered tremendously and disproportionately, accumulating a majority of the nation’s $1.6 trillion student loan debt.
“Momentum is on our side, the American people are on our side and the movement is on our side,” Pressley said. Let me be clear, student debt crisis has always been a racial and economic justice issue. But for too long the narrative has excluded Black and Latinx communities and the ways in which this debt has exacerbated deeply entrenched racial and economic inequities in our nation.”
“Student debt prevents Americans across the country from building and creating wealth that they can pass down to their children and their grandchildren, contributing to the wealth gap and hindering upward mobility,” Adams said. “This is felt most acutely by Black and brown Americans who have historically been denied by this country, their country, the privilege of financial freedom.
“We know that student debt is not a result of bad decisions or behavior, it is the result of a broken system that tells the students to get an education, or go to college in order to have a stable life but then does not provide the resources to afford that education,” said Omar.
“Now this president must do what he is supposed to do. We understand that this president knows his ability to use authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt. In fact that is obvious because he has used that same authority to pause student loan payments and the accrual of interest. Now he must go further,” said Jones.
“I would also add that this is an issue of LGBTQ+ justice. Members of the LGBTQ community largely because their families tend to disown them, disproportionately have higher student debt,” he continued.
Prior to Inauguration, 325 organizations re-released a signed letter asking the Biden-Harris administration to consider cancelling student debt.
“All on his own, President-elect Biden will have the ability to administratively cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt using the authority that Congress has already given to the secretary of Education,” Warren said during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in December, according to The Hill. “This is the single most effective economic stimulus that is available through executive action.”
Biden’s administration supports legislation that would cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt, which is not included in his $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Under one of Biden’s recently signed executive orders, he extended the pause on payments to conclude on Oct. 1.