Tell Joe Biden: Cancel Student Debt, TODAY!

President Joe Biden

The student debt crisis is a moral and economic conundrum. Our local and national economies are suffering because of student loan debt. Black, Latinx, and Native American students are disproportionately impacted by debt-financing for higher education. Low-income students graduate with higher debt totals than higher-income peers. More and more students are priced out of their education and forced to work multiple jobs because of their debt. Others never even get to enroll. It is shameful that our government elected to consign entire generations to financial burden and indebtedness rather than guarantee everyone’s right to an education. This is unjust.

The solution is simple. President Biden already has the legal authority to immediately cancel all student debt– with the stroke of a pen. He can free millions of Americans from crushing debt today. He doesn’t need Congress’ approval; he needs the political will to act.

It’s up to us to make him.

To: President Joe Biden
From: [Your Name]

We are calling on President Biden and the Education Secretary to immediately cancel all student loan debt through executive action.

Student loan debt is a crisis. As state austerity has increasingly privatized our higher education system and displaced costs onto students and families, more and more Americans are forced into financing their education through unscionciable amounts of debt. Since 2003, the number of Americans with student debt more than doubled. Currently, 44 million student debtors collectively owe over $1.6 Trillion in loans.

The deleterious impact of student debt, however, is unequally felt. Rather than be the “great equalizer” it is often purported to be, higher education can actually reproduce and exaggerate existing social inequalities because of debt-financing. Research from the public policy organization Demos shows us that low-income students and Black students are disproportionately impacted by student debt. Of the student population at public institutions who are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant – those coming from the lowest-income households – 84% graduate with student debt, compared with only 46% of non-Pell recipients.

Further– both owing-to and exacerbating the racial wealth gap– Black families are more likely to rely on debt-financing for higher education. Accounting for interest rates, this means Black borrowers may end up paying more for college. Demos reports that as early as 12 years after starting college, nearly two-thirds of Black borrowers end up owing more than they initially borrowed in loans. Comparatively, this is the reality for less than one-third of white borrowers. Therefore, student debt cancellation is as much a racial justice policy as it is a bottom-up economic stimulus.

As residents of Massachusetts, we experience this national crisis acutely at home. As the state with the nation’s second fastest growing student debt average, we’ve watched more and more families and students be priced out of their education and forced into debilitating amounts of debt. In 2004, Massachusetts had the second lowest average of student debt in the country– now we have the tenth highest. Of the Commonwealth’s public college and university students, 74% graduate with student debt. And, diverging from national trends, Massachusetts graduates more public college students into debt than private school counterparts. This is plain wrong.

Fortunately, the solution is extraordinarily simple and expedient. As leading legal scholars– among them, Massachusetts’ own Senator Warren– have already argued, existing executive authority as codified in the Higher Education Act of 1965 empowers the Executive Branch to release student debtors from these financial shackles. In other words, President Biden can cancel student debt with the stroke of a pen.

Doing so will deliver much needed relief to tens-of-millions of Americans, shrink the racial wealth gap, and stimulate our economy. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and a recession threatens the livelihood of millions, it has never been more important to put money directly back in the hands of people.

We are calling on President Biden to join in on what organizers have been saying for decades: enough is enough. Let us cancel student loan debt and usher in a new chapter of American history together.