Economy India Walton Sam Rosenthal

Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Is a Drop in the Bucket

After a series of tepid moves, President Biden’s grand statement in the student debt saga has arrived. To put it mildly, it’s not very inspiring.
A desperate statement spray-painted on a wall. [Quinn Dombrowski / CC BY-SA 2.0]

By India Walton and Sam Rosenthal

As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden was hardly bullish on student debt cancellation. He was cajoled by progressives and his presidential primary opponents into adopting a more forceful student debt cancellation stance, one which ultimately helped win him the support of young voters.

Now, after a series of tepid moves, President Biden’s grand statement in the student debt saga has arrived. To put it mildly, it’s not very inspiring. Over the last half year, we’ve heard that the administration was mulling steps to cancel debt completely, to create a pathway to free public college, to ensure that Americans never fell into debt bondage again over the price of higher education. This new policy ensures none of those things. The president may bill his executive action as a bold, progressive step forward, but in reality, it’s much closer to the business-as-usual Democratic Party policymaking of the last 30 years: minimal, means-tested, and not likely to make a major impact.

That the president is calling for just $10,000 in loan cancellation, or, in the case of Pell Grant recipients, $20,000, is an insult especially to people of color who are still carrying student debt burdens. NAACP President Derrick Johnson made that much clear in early June. “The black community will be watching closely when you make your announcement, but $10,000 is not enough,” he said then.

As we’ve noted before, black Americans’ net worth is uniquely impacted by student loan debt. Compared to white Americans, a higher percentage of black people have student loan debt, that debt is a higher figure on average, and it has a greater impact on black families’ overall net worth than that of white families. The disparity is so stark, in fact, that canceling $50,000 in student loan debt, as Biden was once reportedly considering, could boost black wealth by 40 percent. That the Biden administration would pass on this obvious opportunity to create material change for black borrowers, when he has black voters to thank for the presidency, is unconscionable.

At RootsAction, our policy is the same that it has always been: Joe Biden, and Democrats in Congress, should cancel student debt, all of it. Furthermore, they should focus on ensuring that students can attend trade schools and public universities debt-free, so that future generations do not need to again suffer the burden of massive student loan debt. This policy is politically popular, economically sound, and morally right. The American people do not want another means-tested, narrowly defined policy that amounts to a drop in the bucket in the fight against inequality. We want material steps towards dismantling an obscene system that has profited off the backs of working people whose only crime was to desire an education. The administration still has time to take real action on student loan debt, but they need to get moving.

India Walton
India Walton

India Walton is senior strategic organizer at RootsAction.

Sam Rosenthal
Sam Rosenthal

Sam Rosenthal is RootsAction’s political director.

11 comments

  1. Do you really think that Joe Biden – the proud author of the 1994 Crime Bill, which helped incarcerate hundreds of thousands of black people and wrecked black families- cares one iota about the black voters who helped put him into office?
    Isn’t the definition of insanity that you keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome?
    Why do Americans keep voting for these crooks?

    1. Or white ones, below a “certain economic line.” Of course, they aren’t mentioned in liberal media.

    2. Millions don’t. Democrats are just a middle class thing, and there are fewer of those every year.

  2. The moral hazard in forgiving students their debts is that they may expect the national debt to be forgiven too. That could be done if the Federal Reserve fires up its printing presses to pay back unhappy creditors. The dollar may be devalued but it would make for a great market in wheelbarrows to replace wallets.

  3. The $1400 stimulus check when $2M was the campaign pledge sure was a HOAX. The fact that $600. was previously given so $600.
    Plus $400 =$2M doesn’t add up. And BEZOS
    Got $BILLIONS! NOW we just gave Vogue
    celebrity, Zelensky $54 billion for his failed state war that he can never win but when it comes to student loans, WELL THERE JUST ISN’T ENOUGH to really get debtors off the hook. This is why Trump beat egotistical Hillary.

  4. Why not forgive all student debt? Wealthy people just had their PPP loans forgiven! C’mon Joe! Do something for those who make this economy run!

  5. From Democrats dot org (The DNC):

    “That is why we will make public colleges and universities tuition-free for students whose families earn less than $125,000—roughly 80 percent of the American people.”

    ”For those earning less than $125,000, we support forgiving all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities”

    From the Biden/Harris campaign site (joebiden dot com):

    “Biden will make public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs tuition-free for all students whose family incomes are below $125,000.”

    … and… “Forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs for debt-holders earning up to $125,000.”

    Without expressing an opinion on whether any or all of those campaign promises (which, incidentally, are still a part of the official Democratic platform) are a good or bad idea…

    … it‘s clear that Joe and the Dems are full of shit. Shocker.

  6. Why would this matter “especially to people of color” when most low income (and poor) Americans are white? This is a class issue in a capitalist country.

    1. besides nazi Germany only americans are identity–race obsessed; this explains the ruling class delight w antifa, BLM

  7. Joe Biden’s career follows in the ranks of our historical slaver and exterminator leaders of the past. To me, he is a supporter of mass murderer, over and over and over again. He supports murder through the wars he has supported during his long political career, and he has supported sanctions of many countries which have caused the untimely deaths of thousands/millions of innocents. His support of private health causes countless deaths to Americans. His lack of interest in living wages brings about untold homelessness and resulting deaths. His ‘tepid’ response to young and old people carrying debt is consistent with his support of the banking industry which makes a “killing” on student debt. To have believed his campaign BS is to have believed that the plantation mentality is dead and buried. Remember this dude is a pawn of the credit card industry in Delaware whose primary ethic is to bring on debt. This old man in the Oval Office has been a professional public liar for about 50 years. His legislative behaviors over this period are inconsistent with the heady spins coming from his 1950’s antiquated corporate mind. He works for the money hounds whose job is to keep you leashed to the plantation, not visa-versa. His tiny response sounds more like Reagan’s trickle-down silliness, you know like when the hungry bird follows the ox’s cart!

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