Over the past 20 years, the price of higher education has been on an exponential rise, as has the pressure to get a college degree in order to “stay competitive” in the job market – all while wages have remained stagnant. An entire generation has spent their formative years fighting against two recessions, a pandemic, and predatory loan terms that have seen students make payments for years, but somehow still owe the same amount. Millions of parents are struggling to pay back Parent PLUS loans they took out to support their children’s education, and tens of millions of borrowers have student debt, even though they never completed a degree. Relief was desperately needed – and now it’s arrived, thanks to bold executive action by Joe Biden that will improve the lives of working people across the country.
What you need to know
Tens of millions of low- and middle-income Americans will see their student debt completely cleared. New repayment guidelines mean that no one will make payments for years (or decades!) only to find their principal unchanged, or have to choose between food and loan payments. And targeted relief means that those most affected, especially Black and Brown students, will see the most benefit.
This is an unequivocal win for progressive organizing, and a proof-of-concept victory that shows that continued pressure from advocates and activists can result in institutional change. Yes, more remains to be done – let’s keep fighting! But this win lays the groundwork for future wins. Not because we scored political points, but because this action deeply and personally improves the lives of so many low- and middle-income Americans and helps restore fairness to our educational loan system. President Biden has brought us one step closer to economic justice.
MAGA Republican hypocrisy in action: loan forgiveness for me, but not for thee
Some of the loudest voices opposing student debt cancellation have a dirty secret they don’t want to talk about: they’ve received hundreds of thousands, even MILLIONS, of dollars in forgiven PPP loans. Marjorie Taylor Greene? $183,504 in fully forgiven PPP loans, and that’s just the start. Don’t get us wrong: PPP loan forgiveness was an important part of pandemic survival, and kept thousands of small businesses afloat. But once again, MAGA Republicans are just fine with it when relief programs benefit them or their rich donors, but throw a hissy fit when they help regular low- and middle-income workers. And that doesn’t even include the billions of dollars handed out in corporate freebies and tax loopholes designed to help their super-rich donors. Spare us your fake outrage, Mitch McConnell.
What’s behind the scenes
Our Give No Ground candidates played a central role in winning this victory. Rep. Katie Porter partnered with Elizabeth Warren in the effort to push President Biden to take executive action. Rep. Lauren Underwood took the lead in fighting for an extended loan pause, allowing additional time for negotiations while giving Americans important help during the pandemic slowdown. It’s thanks to the tireless advocacy of Sen. Warnock – a Pell Grant recipient himself – that the relief program includes targeted relief for Pell Grant recipients. And in early 2021, while Dr. Oz was searching for a mansion to buy in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman was releasing videos making the economic case for student debt relief.
How we’re talking about it (and celebrating!)
- This is a huge, milestone victory for millions of Americans, and progressive activists made it happen. Student debt cancellation is an incredibly important activist success story. Thanks to grassroots organizers (like you!), we proved we can take a progressive demand from impossibility to accomplishment in just a few short years.
- MAGA Republicans who support endless tax-dollar handouts to the ultra-rich don’t get to act offended at educational debt relief for low- and middle-income Americans. And that goes double for the Republican members of Congress who happily saw their PPP loans fully forgiven. It was good for our economy then, and it’s good for our economy now. And speaking of the economy:
- It’s safe for the economy. Loan repayments have been on hold for years, with little impact on our economy. Even Goldman Sachs says that this action won’t make inflation worse – instead, it will allow millions to improve their credit and consider America-strengthening investments like buying a home or starting a small business.
- The racial gap in student debt has been ignored for too long. Black students are far more likely to still hold significant debt even decades after school ends, and more likely to owe more than the original debt thanks to usurious interest rates. By offering additional relief to Pell Grant recipients, President Biden is making sure that debt relief goes where it’s most needed.
- It’s not just about cancellation – it’s about creating a better system. That 10K/20K debt reduction for qualifying students is transformative. But making it possible for *everyone* to pay off their loans much more easily and affordably may be an even bigger deal.
- President Biden’s action gives people freedom. Lifting the burden of crushing debt and making repayment easier gives folks the freedom to move forward with their lives: to start a family, to buy a home or start a business, to care for themselves and their loved ones. No one should still be paying off student loan interest when they’re collecting social security.
- We can do more to help. But we need real majorities in Congress first. This happened thanks to executive action by President Biden. But there’s a lot more than can – and should – be done. Imagine what a Senator Fetterman could do to help our small towns, or more worryingly, what the House Oversight Committee would look like without Rep. Katie Porter and her fight to help middle class American families. Then, imagine what happens if MAGA Republicans take back the House: they’re already planning lawsuits to try to overturn this action, putting millions of Americans’ financial future at risk. The stakes couldn’t be higher.