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Road to Relief: Supporting Federal Student Loan Borrowers During the COVID-19 Crisis and Beyond

November 23, 2020
Student Loans
Research

Even before COVID-19, student loan borrowers struggled under the weight of more than $1.6 trillion in debt. One in four borrowers was in default or serious delinquency, and many worried about their ability to make student loan payments while covering other basic needs. Because of decades of structural inequities and discrimination, student loans have burdened Black and Latino borrowers more than other groups, and now these borrowers of color are also among those disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. Millions of lives were already stymied by student loan debt before the public health crisis. Now, as borrowers struggle with COVID-19 and a looming recession, they are bracing for financial disaster.

The COVID-19 recession is on track to last for years, and student loan borrowers need real relief to navigate it. If we are serious about helping communities of color and spurring economic recovery, student debt relief must be a part of the solution. The student loan system has been broken for too long; it is time to clear the books and provide borrowers with a path forward.

This report describes the roadmap the President, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or Congress can use to improve the federal student loan program and ensure that 44 million borrowers have one less burden to manage as this crisis continues. Taken together, these steps will ensure that all federal borrowers, accounting for over 90% of the outstanding student loan balances, receive substantial relief.