One of Biden’s most oft-used excuses for not cancelling $50,000 of student debt revolves around a misleading talking point.
Though Biden has said he’s open to the idea of forgiving some amount of student loan debt—$10,000, and only if Congress passes the legislation—he’s intent on attaching several stipulations to the plan out of fear that rich students who went to “elite” colleges would benefit from a more wide-reaching policy.
“It depends on whether or not you go to a private university or public university,” Biden said in February. “It depends on the idea that I say to a community, ‘I’m going to forgive the debt, the billions of dollars of debt, for people who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn.’”
There are a number of common-sense arguments one could make against this assertion—for example, pointing out the mere fact that not everyone who goes to what might be called an “elite school” comes from an elite family—but why not take a look at some research-based findings?
A new study from the Roosevelt Institute has found that cancelling student loan debt at any proposed level would most benefit Americans with the least wealth, particularly Black and Latinx people.
According to the institute’s findings, the average low-income person in the United States (in the 20th to 40th percentiles of household assets) would have more than four times the amount of debt cancelled as the average person in the top 10 percent of net worth. (And since we already know that women hold a disproportionate amount of debt as compared to their male peers, it stands to reason that Black and Latinx women will especially benefit from student debt cancellation.)
Researchers also found a straightforward relationship between debt and income: The more income a person has, the less debt they tend to owe.
“The authors conclude that student cancellation can, in fact, be progressive and that more substantial cancellation policies would be more progressive,” reads the study’s abstract. “The reason for this progressivity is simple: people from wealthy backgrounds (and their parents) rarely use student loans to pay for college.” This is also what makes cancelling student debt an effective way to begin concertedly closing the racial wealth gap in the U.S., researchers said.
So it turns out that research largely supports our instinctive arguments against the “rich-people-would-benefit-more-from-student-loan-forgiveness” narrative, too. This is unsurprising to me, but perhaps someone would like to inform the president?