The Congressional Black Caucus endorsed full student loan debt cancellation on Monday, becoming the latest political organization to demand tangible action from the Biden Administration on student debt. But unlike other congressional groups, it’s advocating for a much broader scope.
“The $1.7 trillion student loan debt crisis is a racial and economic justice issue disproportionately impacting Black communities across the nation. We are calling on the Biden Administration to implement broad-based student loan debt cancellation by executive action. We are committed to working with the Administration to explore all options and we are requesting to meet with the President,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) in a statement on Monday.
Full cancellation is a step further than other congressional groups are willing to go. When the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Joe Biden last month in the Oval Office, members pushed for Biden to at least honor his campaign promise of cancelling $10,000 per borrower. In response to people’s celebration that even such a small bit of relief was coming, Biden said he was only considering some “debt reduction.”
Student loan debt payments have been on pause since March 2020 when President Donald Trump enacted what many thought would be a temporary pause. Now, payments are on pause until at least September 1.
Student loan debt is carried heavily by Black Americans. One estimate by the NAACP suggested that 81 percent of Black students pursuing higher education had to take out student loans due to the racial wealth gap. The Education Data Initiative found that Black graduates owe, on average, $25,000 more than their white counterparts. Even more troubling, 48 percent of Black students owe 12.5 percent more than their original loan amount four years after graduation. Forty-six percent of Black borrowers report putting off buying a home because of their student debt burden. Post-secondary education was touted as a necessary investment, but for many Black Americans, the return on investment just isn’t there.
There has been handwringing about what kind of debt is appropriate to cancel (public or private? income cap? only undergraduate?), but the CBC’s declaration cuts through the bullshit. Student loan debt burden is at $1,907,053,693,744, the Student Debt Crisis Center reported. And the Biden Administration is in a position to do something—especially since Congress is stymied.
“This is a crisis created through policy decisions, and we have a responsibility to address it head-on. Canceling student loan debt is one of the most impactful ways to address ongoing economic and racial inequities plaguing our nation,” Beatty continued in a statement. “As representatives of more than 17 million Black Americans and 80 million Americans, the urgency of this moment requires we move with intention. In order to reduce the racial wealth gap and advance a just and equitable economic recovery for all, we must alleviate the burden of student debt.”
Most powerfully, Beatty said: “Nothing is off the table, except inaction.”