Supporting student loan debt relief

Published 5:52 pm Friday, February 26, 2021

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To the Editor:

I am pleased that numerous progressive organizations, state attorneys general, and individuals are demanding that President Joe Biden forgive—thanks to the Higher Education Act of 1965—up to $50,000 of student loan debt for millions of Americans struggling to put food on the table and actualize the American Dream.

Indeed, student loan debt, coupled with a crippling coronavirus pandemic, is stifling economic growth, and threatening to make the aforesaid American Dream a nightmare for countless Americans.

President Biden needs to stop dancing around the issue and heed the demands from progressives like Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Chuck Schumer and Congressional Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Mondaire Jones, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently asserted, “Democrats are committed to big, bold action, and this resolution to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt is one of the strongest steps the President can take to achieve these goals. During a time of historic and overlapping crises, which are disproportionately impacting communities of color, we must do everything in our power to deliver real relief to the American people, lift our struggling economy and close the racial wealth gap.”

Though Senator Sanders, chairman of the Senate’s Budget Committee, supports across-the-board student loan debt forgiveness, I genuinely believe the focus should be on student loan borrowers with public loans and annual incomes of under $150,000.

Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley wrote The Triumph of Injustice, a book that addresses the wealth gap and thoroughly discusses social and economic impacts of the racial wealth gap and explores meaningful ways to ameliorate bleak realities stemming from such disparities. Hence, from such text, one reasonably can infer that the authors would agree that widespread student loan debt forgiveness, without the strings that were attached from the Clinton through Trump Administrations, would narrow the wealth gap between Blacks and whites.

Per data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Black college graduates owe an average of $25,000 more in student loan debt than white college graduates. Four years after graduation, 48 percent of black students owe an average of 12.5 percent more than they borrowed and 29 percent face monthly student loan payments of $350 or more.

According to the Urban Institute, among borrowers between the ages of 25 and 55 who took on college debt to finance their undergraduate degree, Black borrowers owe $32,047 on average, and their white and Hispanic counterparts owe roughly $18,685 and $15,853, respectively.

Some scholars question why taxpayers who did not attend college should bail out those who did. Many say that they have repaid their student loans and expect others with exorbitant student debt to do the same. Well, life is not a bowl of cherries. We have a moral obligation to help our fellow citizens.

President John Kennedy was both prophetic and on point when, on a cold January Inaugural Day in 1961, he said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” Besides, the Bible and other sacred texts and doctrines encourage us to bear each other’s burdens.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Sanders maintain that Democrats will lose miserably in upcoming 2022 elections if they fail to deliver on the mandate given them in 2020. That includes substantial student loan debt relief.

Keith W. Cooper