Joe Biden must cancel the student loans now. Black people need it and
deserve it, and this is a racial justice issue.
pressure from activists and a prolonged two-year pause on federal
student loan payments brought about by the COVID pandemic, the Biden
administration is considering a plan for student
The White House has floated ideas such as providing relief to
individuals earning $125,000 or less and couples making up to
$250,000 and canceling at least $10,000
in debt per borrower—which
is nowhere near enough—but not $50,000
as Senate Democrats have suggested.
owe a staggering $1.7
in college debt, mostly federal loans. That’s nearly half a
trillion more than auto loans and double the amount of outstanding
in the U.S.
student loan payments are too damn high. We know this, and Black
people know this more than most. While the need for relief from this
staggering amount of debt is nationwide and runs across the entire
population—including the 43.4
who owe federal student loans—the impact lands a particular way
for Black borrowers.
college graduates have an average of $52,000 in student debt,
which is $25,000 more than their white counterparts, according
to the Education Data Initiative.
Over half of Black borrowers owe more than their net worth, and
monthly payments are a struggle, as they are more likely to miss
payments and default
on their loans.
And four years after graduation, 48 percent of Black students owe an
average of 12.5 percent more than the amount of the original loan!
it is no surprise that as members of two marginalized groups and the
victims of racism and sexism, Black
have more student debt than any other demographic in America. Yet,
they often are students and parents at the same time, and have few
resources to repay the debt. And their salaries are lower than their
male and White counterparts, notes The Education Trust’s
Black Student Debt Study.
plans that cap monthly payments based on one’s income, these
plans do not reduce the loan principal. Defaults persisted for Black
borrowers before the pandemic pause on loan repayments, and student
loans emerged as a lifelong debt you can’t get out of, can’t
get over, and can’t get from under.
wants to get an education to move up the ladder, get ahead and make a
better life for themselves and their family. But how do you do that
when you are crippled with all that debt?
there’s the racial wealth gap. Due to institutional racism,
systemic discriminatory practices and all those years of stolen and
unpaid labor and an inability to build intergenerational wealth,
Black people cannot catch a break. Degree or not—and many
borrowers never earned their degree—Black people make less than
white people due to racism, yet they must take out more student loans
while supporting their children and their parents. No
pursuit of education through student loans increases the racial
wealth gap and fosters the fragility of the Black middle class,
The average white family has 10 times the wealth of an average Black
family, and white college graduates have seven times the wealth of
Black college grads. More debt means a lower credit score, and with
no assistance from their family for things such as buying a home,
Black college degree holders have lower rates of homeownership than
white college dropouts.
people would tell you that Black people are simply making bad
about their education and piling up all this debt they can’t
handle. But the debt itself is the bad idea, a uniquely American
system of economic exploitation where college costs are exorbitant
compared to the rest of the world, and public underinvestment in
education means students pay more for their education, and the most
marginalized in society pay a whole lot more.
to public opinion, educational debt is not good debt, and as the
Education Trust learned in its report
“Jim Crow Debt: How Black Borrowers Experience Student Loans,”
Black borrowers compare their student loans to a form of racial
oppression. Describing the debt as “shackles on their ankle”
or “like Jim Crow,” Black borrowers say they “do
their time” when they re-enroll in IDR every year, with no hope
of paying off their loan balance.
Biden and the Dems need to forgive all student debt now. The need is
especially urgent for Black borrowers. As far as Black people are
concerned, student loan forgiveness should be a down payment on
reparations. While a student debt jubilee would ease the pain and
stress and allow Black folks to breathe and live their lives with
more comfort, it would not erase the rest of the institutional racism
Black America faces. But it would be a good start.
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