BOSTON (AP) — President Joe Biden should help those battling crippling student loan debt by immediately canceling up to $50,000 in debt for federal student loan borrowers, elected Democrats said Thursday.
Biden can make the move using existing authority granted to him under the Higher Education Act, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said at a conference. press in the afternoon.
Pressley said the action would address a crisis that disproportionately hurts black and brown borrowers.
“We are all here to call on President Biden to uphold the movement that elected him and use his executive power to forgive $50,000 in federal student loan debt,” Pressley said.
Because of historically discriminatory policies — like redlining, which limited black people’s ability to get the bank loans needed to buy homes and build wealth over generations — black and brown students seeking to go to college have had to rely more on student loans, Pressley mentioned.
“If President Biden is serious about closing the racial wealth gap, if President Biden is looking to build back better, then he must use his executive power to issue student debt forgiveness at scale and at every level,” he said. she declared.
Capping the amount of debt relief at $50,000 will do the most good for the maximum number of people trapped under piles of debt that make it difficult to buy homes, start businesses and build families, Warren said.
Canceling $50,000 in debt would help close the wealth gap between black and white borrowers, Warren said. She also said that 40% of those who took out student loans were unable to complete college, with many struggling with debt while working in lower-paying jobs.
The student debt forgiveness effort has been criticized by some former student debt holders who say they worked and saved to pay off their debts and don’t think it’s fair for others to be spared.
Warren said student loan debt forgiveness is good for everyone.
“Our economy would be better off if all the people who have student loan debt could go out and start their small businesses, able to buy houses, able to take government jobs,” she said. “If we’re going to take the position that if I haven’t already got it in the past, you can’t get it now, we’ll never build anything. We wouldn’t have started Social Security. We wouldn’t have launched Medicare.
La’Kayla Carpenter said she was days away from buying her first home when she learned she was in default of $23,000 on her student loans. She said she tried to work out a deal to be removed by default, but was refused.
“I did everything I could to stay in the right direction – I went to school, I graduated, I got married, I had children,” he said. she declared. “Feeling like I was less than a person because of that didn’t really feel good.”
Biden announced in January that federal student loan repayments would remain suspended and interest rates would be set at 0% until at least September 30, extending an action by former President Donald Trump’s administration.
The pause in student loan repayments has since been extended to more than a million people who had defaulted on student loans held by private lenders who offered federally guaranteed loans under a program that ended in 2010.