Eighty-one million Americans elected Joe Biden to do everything he can to ensure a swift, equitable recovery — without waiting for Congress. President Biden must use his authority to cancel $50,000 in student debt for every person with federal loans. Today.
More than 40 million Americans hold $1.7 trillion of student loan debt — whether they graduated from college or graduate school or not. The economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded this crisis.
In my district covering Rockland and Westchester counties, thousands of people in their 20s and 30s have to stay at home with their parents because they can’t afford our extremely expensive cost of living. That’s not because they did anything wrong. It’s because they did exactly what our country encourages them to do: pursue a degree and their professional aspirations. But financial security has remained elusive. The cost of four-year college skyrocketed while wages have remained stagnant. As a result, millions of people suffer from enormous debt.
The president can lift this burden with the stroke of a pen. Under the Higher Education Act, he has the authority to cancel federally owned debt by executive order. In fact, he’s already used this authority to freeze student loan payments and the accrual of interest. This is why last week I introduced a resolution calling on Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt for federal borrowers.
I know firsthand what it means to be burdened by student debt. Like most Americans, I don’t come from money.
Leading economists have found that student debt cancellation would lead to increased economic activity and create upwards of one million jobs.
Were it not for financial aid as an undergraduate, my family could not possibly have afforded to put me through the very expensive institution that was Stanford University, where I received an education that enabled me to transcend poverty. I saw how a college degree without the burden of debt opens doors that most children can only dream of in this country. Without any debt, I was able to enter public service by doing a fellowship in the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, an experience that would help me get into a great law school and ultimately serve in the U.S. Congress.
But law school left me on my own. I graduated with more than $120,000 in debt. When I clerked for a federal judge, I had to go into forbearance. Until recently, every single month, I would spend well more than $1,000 to pay down my student debt. That is money I could not save to one day own a home — the single greatest generator of wealth in this country — or start a family. Money I could not spend at local businesses or use to start a company.
For every story like mine, there are countless stories of hardworking, ambitious students from working-class and middle-class homes who have not had my luck. They didn’t have the opportunity to graduate college debt-free or get a good-paying job right out of school — if ever. They’re stuck with enormous debt, with no way to pay it off.
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It doesn’t have to be this way.
Canceling $50,000 in student debt is an issue of economic, racial and LGBTQ justice. Like most crises, the student debt crisis hits our most vulnerable communities the hardest. Student debt disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic people, who lack the generational wealth that allows white families to put their children through college. Black students are more likely to need to take on debt, and five times more likely than their white peers to default on their loans. Student debt is also disproportionately held by LGBTQ people, who are more likely to lack parental support through their formative years.
I’m 33 years old. For every generation before mine, education offered a ticket to the American Dream. For my generation, that dream has become a nightmare.
Canceling student debt isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s the economically smart thing to do. It would liberate millions of Americans to meaningfully participate in our economy. During the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, forgiving student debt would put hundreds or thousands of dollars a month back in the pockets of millions of working people.
Leading economists have found that student debt cancellation would lead to increased economic activity and create upwards of one million jobs. It would boost real GDP by $1 trillion over 10 years. Liberation from student debt would make entrepreneurship and starting a family more possible.
The Americans who voted for Joe Biden gave him a mandate for real change. By canceling student debt, we can repair our struggling economy and address systemic injustice at the same time. For the sake of the 43 million Americans burdened by student debt, for the sake of our economy, and for the sake of those who most need relief, it’s time to act.