Joint Statement: Over 235 Orgs Call on President-Elect Biden to Cancel Federal Student Debt on Day One using Executive Action

November 18, 2020
Contact: Alexis Goldstein

Washington, D.C. — Today, over 235 organizations sent a 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, 238 nonprofit and community organizations highlight that cancelling student debt would stimulate the economy, help reduce the racial wealth gap, 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,” and that it 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.

Signers include: American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, The Education Trust, Hispanic Federation, NAACP, National Urban League, UnidosUS, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Women’s Law Center, SEIU, UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America), the Coalition on Human Needs, Children’s Defense Fund, the American Psychological Association, Council on Social Work Education, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Sunrise Movement, Minority Veterans of America, the United States Student Association, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, 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, Demos, the National Consumer Law Center, and Student Borrower Protection Center. 

“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 $1.6 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.”  

“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 

“Many social workers and other essential healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic are saddled with student loan debt. Social workers are providing critical mental and behavioral health services and social needs care to underserved communities and they 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

“We cannot wait a second longer for debt relief when we know the president has the authority to cancel student debt on day one.  With so much at stake, this is the most urgent opportunity to help the country heal from the health crisis, heal from economic harm, and heal from the history of racial disparities. Joe Biden can, and must, use the remedy of student debt cancellation to address these pressing issues,” said Natalia Abrams, the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Student Debt Crisis.

 “The growing cost burden of college put on students and their families has put a huge financial weight on the backs of millions of young people over recent decades. This weight is heaviest for Black and Latinx borrowers and stands to perpetuate the inequities in our economy and society for another generation. To spark economic recovery and promote racial justice, the new administration should make a broad student debt cancellation order a Day One priority, then tackle the urgent need to make college more affordable for the long-term,” said Kyle Southern, higher education director for Young Invincibles.

“Widespread student debt cancellation is needed on Day One of the Biden Administration,” said Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project.  “Student loan borrowers are drowning in debt caused by a system that has been inequitable and broken for decades. Abusive debt collection practices take critical funds, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, from borrowers’ safety nets and extrajudicially garnish borrowers’ wages, disproportionately siphoning money from communities of color. Student debt cancellation is urgently needed now as American families struggle to stay financially afloat through the economic and public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”

“The health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have not only upended our economy and sent millions into unemployment, but shined a bright light on the massive racial disparities among student loan borrowers. Black borrowers hold double the amount of debt as white borrowers four years after graduation. It is no surprise, then, that Black borrowers default on their loans at double the rate as white borrowers,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for Civil Justice and Consumer Rights at Public Citizen. “Cancelling student debt would be a massive economic stimulus to the economy and start to right the undeniable systemic inequalities in American society that make it hard for borrowers of color to climb the economic ladder.”