With payments set to resume in May, Federal student loan forgiveness remains an urgent concern. But Senate Democrats say the president can make a meaningful difference in the next month.
During a roundtable discussion Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged the public to reach out to the president. He said everyone concerned about student debt should write or call the president.
“This is one of those areas where we don’t have to get Republican votes,” Schumer explained. He said the administration has the authority. “They can cancel it. They have the power to do so.”
On the “Get Involved” page on the official White House website, there is a section with full details on how people can write, call or email the White House.
The current moratorium on federal student loan payments has given borrowers of all ages a reprieve from the monthly payments. As of right now, the pause is scheduled to end on May 1, 2022.
Schumer said pausing payments is “not enough.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren echoed Schumer’s call to action imploring the public to request the president act.
“The law is very flexible on debt forgiveness,” Warren explained. “We just need him to pick it up and use it to help close the racial wealth gap.”
Both Warren and Schumer have worked with Rep. Ayanna Pressley to push for the president to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt. For her part, Pressley has been a constant presence in the debt forgiveness conversation, often bringing it back to racial justice.
As previously reported by NewsOne, Pressley co-lead a press conference with Warren last April calling on the president to forgive student debt up to $50,0000
“The student debt crisis has always been a racial and economic justice issue,” Pressley said. “But for too long that narrative has excluded Black and Latinx communities when in fact the student debt crisis has exacerbated deeply entrenched racial and economic inequities in our nation.”
Earlier this week, the president released his Fiscal Year 2023 budget. There was no mention of student loan forgiveness of any amount. According to Warren, this isn’t an issue for the budget but the president’s executive authority.
“The President of the United States has the power to make real change,” Warren said. “This is the single most powerful thing that anyone in our government can do to help close the racial wealth gap by canceling $50,000 in student loan debt.”
By all accounts, student loan forgiveness is consistent with the “president’s strategy to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”
As recently reported by CNN, Biden used his executive power to cancel student loan debt for over 700,000 borrowers. But millions more are in dire need of relief.
According to the Education Data Initiative, an estimated 43.4 million borrowers hold federal student loan debt. Total federal student loan debt exceeds $1.611 trillion. Black college students are also more likely to rely on student loans and default on them within the first 12 years.
Likely referencing findings from a 2019 study by researchers at Brandeis University, Warren said that after 20 years White borrowers typically owed only 6 percent of their initial loan debt compared to Black borrowers who still owed 95 percent of their initial loan debt. Looking at a group of college students who started in 1995-1996, the researchers found that after 20 years the “median total for undergraduate loans for Black students was 3.5 times greater than for their White peers.”
Looking ahead to the 2022 midterm elections, Schumer also said it was a winning issue that could help drive voter turnout, particularly among younger voters.
“Nothing would do better than the President canceling $50,000 in student debt, which would eliminate the debt for 73 percent of all debtors,” Schumer said. “It’s just vital.”
Groups like the Debt Collective want it all canceled. The group is planning a day of action in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 4, calling for the president to “pick up the pen,” referring to his executive order power.
“We’ve got a chance to make a little justice in this country over the next month,” Warren said. “We can do this now.”
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