It’s been reported that President Biden is close to a final decision on canceling at least $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $150,000 or $300,000 for married couples. This consideration comes on the heels of the president recently extending the debt payment deadline through August 31, the third time in the two years since the start of the pandemic, which triggered the first pause.
This debt relief has helped Black borrowers and their families, who hold disproportionately higher debt, from being pushed to the edge of a financial cliff. While the average Black college graduate owes $52,726 in student debt, the average white college grad owes closer to $28,006, according to Brookings Institution.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the impending burden of student loan debt for Black Americans. The Black unemployment rate remains two times higher than for Black Americans who are having the greatest difficulty recovering economically. Across the nation in early March, nearly 55% of all households reported having some level of difficulty paying for typical household expenses. This number was notably higher for Black households, where 63% of households reported having difficulty covering the basics. In fact, more than one in three (35%) of those households reported facing “very difficult” challenges in paying for expenses.
While the repayment pause and proposed cancellation of $10,000 for borrowers meeting the income criteria may provide temporary comfort, Black Americans — not just borrowers — are eager for the administration to take decisive, permanent action on student loan debt relief. For example, according to a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ poll, 76% of Black Americans surveyed said the president should cancel all student debt.
Because Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by student loan debt, the Joint Center continues to call for the Biden administration to take permanent action that delivers relief to all borrowers. The following are 10 reasons why President Biden should immediately do so:
The student loan debt crisis is rooted in systematic issues. Black students seek higher education in a social and economic system built on racist ideologies that are created to work against them and immortalize racial wealth and income and achievement gaps.
“The framing of student loans as ‘good debt’ ignores the experiences of Black borrowers,” who have less household wealth than their white peers and whose only choice is to take out student loans for college, according to The Education Trust’s “Jim Crow Debt” report.
White Student Debt Compared to Black Student Debt
“Twenty years after college, the median debt of white students has reduced by 94% — with almost half having no student debt — but Black borrowers at the median still owe 95 percent of their total debt,” according to Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University’s “Stalling Dreams” report.
The debt that Black borrowers take on annually compounds by 7% after the borrowers leave school, according to a study in the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity journal.
Homeownership is the road to building generational wealth. But 62% of Black borrowers earning between $25,000 and $50,000 and have a medium debt balance of $63,000 said their dreams of buying a home have been sidelined because of student loan debt, according to the “Jim Crow Debt” study.
Retirement, Choice and Realizing Dreams
Additionally, if Black people didn’t have student loan debt, “73% of Black voters with student loan debt would have the opportunity to save for retirement, 48% would leave a job where they’re experiencing discrimination and 30% would start their own business,” according to a Color Of Change Student Debt Elimination survey.
Black students disproportionately enroll in for-profit institutions, where debt levels gravitate to be highest, according to the American Council on Education’s “Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education” study.
Increasing Black Wealth
Erasing $50,000 in student loans per person, which some senators, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), have called for, would immediately increase Black wealth by 40%, according to The Roosevelt Institute.
The student loan debt crisis threatens the economic security of Black women, according to CLASP (Center for Law and Social Policy). Black women carry about 20% more debt than white women ($33,851 vs. $41,466) in undergraduate loans one year after graduation.
A Possible Repeat
President Biden: Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis. It shouldn’t happen again. As an administration that champions racial equity, action must be taken that prioritizes the unique challenges facing Black borrowers.