It’s been exactly one week since the White House announced student loan relief for millions of Americans burdened by college debt. The decision was more than a year in the making, with student debt forgiveness activists keeping Biden’s feet to the fire to ensure he delivered on his promise. Today they continue to celebrate the step forward while continuing to activate around more forgiveness.
“We need to keep fighting for full student loan cancellation and free college,” Melissa Byrne, the executive director of WeThe45Million tells EBONY. “This is a strong first step that has double the relief going to the borrowers who received Pell grants—more likely Black borrowers.” The Biden Administration announced $10,000 in student loans would be forgiven, and up to $20,000 forgiven for Pell Grant recipients.
The astronomical student loan debt figure continues to rise. Currently standing at $1.6 trillion, more than 45 million borrowers are feeling the daily brunt of having college debt hanging over their head. The burden has significantly impacted the middle class, and has created stumbling blocks for many Americans. But because Black Americans are more likely to borrow, student debt has been particularly damaging for a group already struggling to get paid wages and job opportunities on par with their white counterparts.
White House officials note that the struggle with high monthly payments and ballooning balances have made it harder for borrowers to build wealth, like buying homes, putting away money for retirement, and starting small businesses. “Since 1980, the total cost of both four-year public and four-year private college has nearly tripled, even after accounting for inflation,” a statement from the White House reads.
Though the three-part plan delivers on President Biden’s promise, activists have been clear that $50,000 is the base number they are shooting for. "We are grateful to the White House for listening to communities and people who represent those who are directly affected with staggering student debt,” says Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP. “The NAACP continues to urge the president to cancel a minimum of $50,000 in student debt per borrower, to significantly reduce the racial wealth gap and address the needs of Black and Brown communities.”
The NAACP, as well as other debt forgiveness activists have often pointed to the research and personal experiences of the American people as the reason why it’s imperative that the fedearl government cancel more than $10,000. “As we’ve made clear, equity must guide his decision,” Johnson maintains.
Biden scored an economic win earlier this month by signing the Inflation Reduction Act. Student debt cancellation marked a second win in less than a month’s time. But activists say more cancellation could reach those from many professions and communities, young and older Americans alike.
“We The 45M worked closely with the NAACP and MoveOn to be a presence outside the WH monthly with a brass band interacting with staff and media,” says Byrne of the effort put in by student debt forgiveness activists. “The movement continues by first ensuring everyone gets relief, troubleshooting the relief process, and working for round two.”