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We need President Biden to #CancelStudentDebt immediately. But this alone won’t solve the student debt crisis; Congress must fix the root of this issue by addressing the cost of college to ensure no one is ever put in the same situation as today’s borrowers.

Actions, Progressive Economics, Racial Justice, Student Debt

The fact that millions of Americans, particularly Black and Brown and low-income borrowers, are saddled with student loan debt is a shameful testament to the broken promise of the American Dream.

With the cost of college rising by over 1,000% from 1982-2012, and another 25% in the last 10 years, it’s no surprise that we’ve landed our country in a dire student debt crisis. 45 million student loan borrowers hold $1.7 trillion in debt and for many, there’s no way out from under the debt burden.

Which is why we need President Biden to #CancelStudentDebt—borrowers immediately need their balances reduced. But this alone won’t solve the student debt crisis; Congress must fix the root of this issue by addressing the cost of college to ensure no one is ever put in the same situation as today’s borrowers.

The heart of the debt crisis is the fact that higher education has become incredibly unaffordable and inaccessible due to decades of divestment from federal and state governments. Simultaneously, the cost of living and inflation continued to increase while wages stagnated.  

A quality higher education shouldn’t only be accessible to the rich. EVERYONE should be able to choose their education, path, and future, regardless of background or wealth, without taking on the burden of debt or financial strain.    

Debt cancellation and making college free are two sides of the same coin—both are key to making higher education equitable across racial, gender, and economic groups. #FreeCollege is a social, economic, and racial justice issue. 

There are already several #FreeCollege proposals on the table. In recent years, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced his College for All legislation and Senator Brian Schatz, the Debt-Free College Act. We have the momentum. To start, two years of free community college is an excellent down payment on affordable higher education.

Debt-free college legislation that accomplishes the following would truly transform higher education and go a long way towards making it accessible to everyone. These solutions must be made accessible to undocumented students, incarcerated students, and all who are traditionally excluded from most financial aid policy.

  • Double the maximum Pell grant: nearly 7 million low- and middle-income students rely on Pell grants to attend college. The current maximum Pell Grant covers less than one-third of the cost of attending a four-year college. Exclude for-profit institutions from eligibility. 
  • Make community college and 4-years of college at public universities, MSIs, HBCUs, and Tribal Colleges free. 
  • Create federal-state funding partnerships, which would help undo years of state disinvestment in public higher education, a factor contributing to the student debt crisis.
  • Cover the living expenses of students to prevent the need to take out loans and address the resource gaps that “tuition-only” legislation fails to consider.
  • Address racial inequities in college affordability by investing in HBCUs and MSIs and expanding financial aid eligibility to DREAMers.
  • Invest additional federal funds on evidence-based student success strategies to improve retention and completion rates. 

So we have legislation on the table. We just need you to tell your senators to support #FreeCollege and to #CancelStudentDebt!