President Joe Biden vetoed a bill passed by Congress that blocked his student loan forgiveness plan last Wed, June 7. The Republican-led effort throws the debt relief plan back into the air as the pause on student loans for more than 40 million borrowers is set to end in August.
Of course, among the most vulnerable borrowers are Black and brown communities already struggling with an economy rife with inflation.
The student loan forgiveness plan could still be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court despite the veto. A decision is expected this summer, reported the Associated Press (AP). Student loan payments were initially paused at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic three years ago, but they will resume in August.
If enacted, Biden’s plan would forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 per year, said the AP.
Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU)’s Chief Policy Officer Nicholas Kent said that borrowers from low-income backgrounds and people of color are more likely to struggle when their federal student loan payments resume and will require additional support to ensure a smooth transition back into repayment.
“It will be critical for institutions, policymakers, and other interested parties to continue working together to ensure these borrowers and others have accurate and consistent information to help minimize any adverse impact,” said Kent in a statement.
Chivona Renée Newsome, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Greater New York, said that Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan was essentially a “failed campaign promise to Black people.”
Newsome said that entire generations of people of color were instilled with the idea that you can overcome oppression with education, but that goal line is hard to achieve in reality with egregious amounts of debt hanging over Black borrowers. She believes that is no longer the case.
“The path for us is financial freedom, but we borrow money and even if we get these jobs that we want, we’re not going to build any wealth not for the next generation because we’re busy paying back the government for education that no longer buys the American dream,” said Newsome.
Newsome said her older brother’s college education put a financial strain on her family. He is an environmental activist that attended law school. “It was rough. My family did not have good credit,” said Newsome. “I had to work three jobs to get through college.”
She said she’s currently down to her last $10,000 in repayments for her student loans and is admittedly a little “bitter” about the cancellation program. Still, she thinks the forgiveness plan would be an “amazing step up” for future generations of people of color who could come out of school debt-free.
Many advocates fear that repayments will further burden younger borrowers that already don’t see a way to be financially responsible for children and homeownership as in previous generations, said AP.
Jermaine House is senior director of communications at HIT Strategies, a Black-run (a black man and Indian woman own HIT, though we do specialize in understanding Black and young voters) polling company focusing on surveying Black voters. HIT data from national polling indicates that Black voters with a degree and without a degree support and prioritize student debt relief said House.
HIT found that the plurality of Black voters polled think that the debt relief should be more than $10,000 and some think that the money offered is too much, said House. (This reads weirdly, but the point I am making here is that depending on the month, between 80-90 percent of Black voters support relief of “at least 50,000.” A pluraility believe we should forgive exactly 50,000. The other 10-20 percent believe the government should forgive10,000 or less )Of those, younger Black voters are more likely to say that $10,000 for student debt forgiveness is too low.
Based on their numbers from February, Biden has a 74% approval rating among Black voters, said House, but that is subject (I would it fluctuates) to change monthly. Also, a larger percentage of those supporters are over 50 and that support tends to drop among younger Black voters.
“There’s some difference between Black men and Black women “Democrats and Biden approval”), but the bigger gap is between younger and older Black voters. And the younger ones, those are the people Democrats need to mobilize,” said House.
In a message to Congress, Biden wrote why he struck down the bill. “It is a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue this unprecedented attempt to deny critical relief to millions of their own constituents, even as several of these same lawmakers have had tens of thousands of dollars of their own business loans forgiven by the Federal Government,” said Biden. “I remain committed to continuing to make college affordable and providing this critical relief to borrowers as they work to recover from a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
Biden maintains that making college cheaper, revising the student loan system, increasing Pell Grants, and providing debt relief for student borrowers and former students is critical to pandemic and continued economic recovery.
He said that during the period when the student debt relief application was available 26 million people applied or were eligible and at least 16 million of those borrowers could have received debt relief already “if it were not for meritless lawsuits waged by opponents of this program.”
[updated Thursday, June 29]
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.