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Over 325 Orgs Call on President-Elect Biden to Cancel Federal Student Debt on Day One using Executive Action

Friday, January 15, 2021
Ashley Harrington

Washington, D.C. — Today, more than 325 organizations sent an updated letter to President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris, calling on them to use executive authority to cancel federal student debt on day one of their administration.

In the letter, more than 325 nonprofit and community organizations highlight that cancelling student debt would stimulate the economy, help reduce racial wealth gaps, and could have a positive impact on health outcomes. The groups write that “executive action is one of the few available tools that could immediately provide a boost to upwards of 44 million borrowers and the economy.” Further, this action would be an important first step in advancing the President-Elect’s campaign priorities to ensure racial equity, focus on economic recovery, and deliver COVID-19 relief.

The letter, which was originally sent in November, has been updated with more than 85 additional signers.

The broad and diverse coalition advocating for this urgent action include (new signers in bold):

American Federation of Teachers, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, National Education Association, The Education Trust, Hispanic Federation, National Action Network, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), NAACP, National Urban League, SisterSong National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, UnidosUS, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Communications Workers of America, SEIU, UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America), Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research, Family Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), National Women’s Law Center, Children’s Defense Fund, the American Psychological Association, Council on Social Work Education, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, 350.org, Greenpeace, Sunrise Movement, Oil Change U.S., Minority Veterans of America, the United States Student Association, MoveOn, Generation Progress, Indivisible, MomsRising, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Pennsylvania Council of Churches, the Faith in Action National Network, and the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

The letter was led by Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Consumer Law Center, and Student Borrower Protection Center.

“Federal student debt cancellation is the kind of bold policy that we expect the incoming administration to deliver. Families across this country need economic relief that meets the scale of this crisis. Default rates for Black borrowers remain higher than those of their peers, regardless of the type of higher education institution they attended. Many of the college students that NAN serves, often can only attend these higher education institutions by taking out loans. Research shows that four out of five Black students take out loans to go to college. Canceling federal student loan debt is one of the most effective ways to provide direct relief to millions of Americans drowning in this crisis,” said Tylik M. McMillan, National Director of Youth and College at the National Action Network.

“Actionable steps to address long-standing inequitable issues are within reach. Within the first 100 days, President Biden can narrow the opportunity gap by hitting the reset button with student loan debt. Families, particularly those of color continue to pay on student loans acquired to further their education, in order to better serve communities in professions of public service. The teacher loan forgiveness program is not even close to enough. It is time for our nation to provide investment language to zero out the neverending payments to student loan debt. The Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents supports the cancellation of student federal loan debt and offers creative solutions to an inequitable issue that is predominantly founded on color and social class.” said Dr. Maria Armstrong, Executive Director, of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.

“Like millions of other Americans, Flight Attendants’ dreams are kept on the runway by the weight of student debt. During a recent training for our union activists, we heard from members who have put off dreams like buying a home and starting a family because of debt that never seems to go down no matter what they pay. This debt is holding back individuals and our economy. We call on President-elect Biden to use his authority to cancel it and give Americans the runway to lift off,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

“There are millions of people with disabilities who have taken out student loans to finance their postsecondary education. Some struggle to pay down their student loan debt because their disability limits their capability to work and now have to live under financial strain as a result. The unfortunate reality is that there are already existing protections for people with disabilities who cannot work and pay back their loans, but the federal government has failed to implement these policies effectively. The system is failing this population and we call on President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris to utilize their executive authority to address the student loan crisis facing millions across the country,” said Curt Decker, Executive Director, National Disability Rights Network.

“Many social workers and other essential healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic are saddled with student loan debt. They are providing critical mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder services for underserved communities, at a time when their student loan debt is crushing. Social workers are required to have a high level of education to practice and are among the lowest-paid professionals in the workforce,” said Sarah Christa Butts, MSW, director of Public Policy, National Association of Social Workers.

“At a moment when student borrowers are facing deep economic hardship, the impact of student debt cancellation will be far reaching. It will not only allow Latino borrowers a new financial start but address the racial wealth gap that so often prevents Latinos from moving up the economic ladder.” said Amalia Chamorro, Associate Director of Education at UnidoUS.

“President-Elect Biden can— and should— cancel student debt on Day One of his presidency,” said Ashley Harrington, federal advocacy director and senior counsel Ashley Harrington at the Center for Responsible Lending. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, student debt exacerbated existing systemic inequities and racial disparities. Just as with the Great Recession, communities of color are disproportionately affected by the current crisis. They also shoulder a disproportionate amount of the $1.7 trillion student debt burden that is draining our economy. Cancellation will help jumpstart spending, create jobs, and add to the GDP. Short-term payment suspension alone is not enough to help struggling borrowers who are unemployed, already in default, or in serious delinquency. Borrowers need real relief, and they need it on Day One.”

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Press Contact: Vincenza Previte vincenza.previte@responsiblelending.org