Biden's student debt cancellation earns praise from educators and civil rights groups

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Multiple organizations advocating for marginalized Americans and progressives called President Biden's action 'historic,' 'life-changing' step for millions.

President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel student debt for millions of Americans has received praise from several civil rights organizations, organizations representing educators, labor unions and student debt cancellation advocates.

Biden announced on Aug. 24 that he is proposing to relieve $10,000 in federal student loan debt for eligible Americans, and separately $10,000 for borrowers who were recipient of Pell Grants, reserved for undergraduates with the most significant financial need.

There are 43 million people in the United States who have student loan debt. Black and Latino Americans have a disproportionately higher number of student loans than white students, according to a June 2020 report from the Student Borrower Protection Center. Their report found that 90% of Black college attendees have such loans along with 72% within the Latino community. That compares to 66% of white students attending college.

The NAACP, a civil rights organization that has campaigned for student loan forgiveness, praised President Biden’s actions.

“President Biden's announcement today, cancelling up to $20,000 for Americans across many generations, takes us one step closer to the NAACP's ultimate goal of alleviating the burden of student debt,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “We've got a ways to go, but the NAACP is proud that we were able to push President Biden to exceed $10,000, bringing us closer to $50,000 and beyond.”

National Urban League president and CEO Marc H. Morial said Biden’s actions “offered much-needed relief to millions of federal student loan borrowers.”

“The extra relief for Pell Grants recipients will especially help Black, Latino, and low-income borrowers and is responsive to the National Urban League’s call for an approach that recognizes these borrowers often owe more and for longer periods,” Morial noted in a release.

UnidosUS, the largest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S., stated that as a result of Biden’s actions, “1/3 of Latinos will have their student debt cleared.” Their president and CEO, Janet Murguía, said, “This is a momentous development for those impacted by student debt, including millions of Latino and Latina borrowers.”

Murguía added, “Providing debt relief at this unique moment to those who need it most will result in more Latinos reaping the economic benefits of a college degree, including the ability to build wealth through homeownership.”

Similarly, the Latino Victory Project said Biden’s decision was “a necessary economic lifeline for millions of Americans, especially Latinos who are among the most impacted by student loan debt.”

It wasn't just civil rights organizations: education advocacy groups and unions for educators also applauded the proposed plan.

“America’s educators thank President Biden for keeping his campaign promise and taking this bold, life-changing action on behalf of the 48 million student borrowers in America,” Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the country, said in a press release.

“This will have a positive impact on America's educators and the students they serve,” Pringle added.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), described Biden’s policy as “a transformative action that will change countless lives” in the organization's statement. Weingarten added that the loan forgiveness, along with policies to extend the pause on student loan repayments until the end of the year, adjustments to federal loan parameters to cut the size of payments, and actions to forgive debt incurred by corrupt for-profit schools are a “game-changer.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest trade union for public employees in the country, said Biden’s “historic action” would put “money back into working people’s pockets and frees thousands of families from crippling debt.”

Other groups who have been organizing in favor of debt forgiveness also had positive responses to Biden's announcement.

“Today’s announcement marks a historic moment and critical first step in the long fight to end the student debt crisis,” wrote Natalia Abrams, president of the Student Debt Crisis Center.

“With the stroke of a pen, President Biden has kept his promise to voters and stepped in after decades of inaction, freeing millions from a long-broken, predatory and abusive student loan system,” Mike Pierce, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, said.

National public sentiment echoes much of the praise.

A poll conducted between Aug. 19-21 by the firm Data for Progress found that 60% of the registered voters they spoke to agreed with the idea that the federal government should eliminate all or some student loan debt for all borrowers. The poll found support from 45% of Republicans, 52% of independents, and 81% of Democrats.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.