May 27, 2022 The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr. President of the United States The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500
The Honorable Kamala D. Harris Vice President of the United States The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris,
We, the 529 undersigned community, civil rights, education, climate, health, consumer, labor, professional, food and farm, and student advocacy organizations write to urge you to strengthen the economy, tackle racial disparities, and provide much-needed relief to help all Americans weather the pandemic and record inflation by using executive authority to cancel federal student debt immediately.
Before the COVID-19 public health crisis began, student debt was already a drag on the national economy, with Black and Latinx communities--particularly women-- feeling the greatest burden. That weight has been exponentially magnified given the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 has taken on both the health and economic security of people of color and women. To minimize the harm to the next generation and help narrow the racial and gender wealth gaps, bold and immediate action is needed: President Biden should protect all student loan borrowers, by cancelling existing debts.
There is growing energy and strong bipartisan public support for immediate broad-based debt cancellation. Such executive action is one of the few available tools that could immediately provide a boost to upwards of 44 million borrowers and the economy. Lawmakers and advocacy groups have introduced several proposals to provide various levels of student debt cancellation. In February 2021, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Elizabeth Warren, House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, and Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Alma Adams, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones, and Ritchie Torres introduced a bicameral resolution calling on the President to use executive action to cancel $50,000 in federal student loans for individual borrowers. 1 They were joined by 17 other Senators and 65 other Representatives, and received the support of a multi-state group of attorneys general. 2 The resolution highlights that the Higher Education Act clearly provides the Secretary of Education with the authority to cancel federal student debt administratively.
During the campaign, you endorsed “a minimum of $10,000” in relief while Congress negotiated the CARES Act, and subsequently promised to provide broad student debt cancellation “immediately” as a coronavirus response. Administrative debt cancellation will deliver real progress on your racial equity, economic recovery, and COVID-19 relief campaign priorities.
Student debt exacerbates existing racial inequities; cancellation will help reduce the racial wealth gap. The disproportionate impact of student debt on borrowers of color exacerbates existing systemic inequities and widens the racial wealth gap. Black Americans—and particularly Black women—are more likely to take on student loan debt and struggle with repayment. This burden is particularly acute for those Black students who are targeted by for-profit institutions, which also target veterans and often deliver poor instructional quality and outcomes at a high cost, causing a high proportion of students to drop out. Even for those students who do graduate, gainful employment in the field that they trained for is frequently elusive, leaving students with a lot of debt but not much to show for it. Black borrowers report that their student loan debt often feels like a life sentence even if they use relief programs like Income-Driven Repayment because they watch the amount owed balloon over time. Student debt cancellation has the potential to increase the net wealth of Black households and could even help reduce the racial wealth gap.
Cancellation will boost household wealth, increase small business formation, and provide much-needed economic relief during this historic period of inflation. Today’s graduates face a dual crisis: in addition to the ongoing stagnation of wages, the pandemic has impacted their ability to earn income. Students who graduate into a recession face a “scarring” effect on their entire careers, leading to permanently lower employment and earnings. Data from before the pandemic showed that when subtracting all of their debts from all of their assets, today’s young adults with college degrees and student debt were left with a median net wealth of -$1,900 – a decline of approximately $9,000 from 2013. Student debt also impacts seniors, the nation’s fastest-growing group of student debtors. 37% of seniors with student loans are in default, and in 2015 alone, 40,000 borrowers over 65 had their Social Security garnished due to student loans. The mere presence of student debt on households’ balance sheets can make it harder or more expensive for families to get other types of credit and fully participate in the economy. Meanwhile, research shows that student debt cancellation catalyzes drastic, positive changes for borrowers, particularly for those not current on their loans. When borrowers’ student debt is canceled, their ability to pay down other debts increases; their geographic mobility and ability to stay in rural communities improves, as do their opportunities to pursue better jobs. Cancelling student debt would jumpstart small business formation at a time when tens of thousands of small businesses have closed. These small business closures have disproportionately affected Black and Latinx business owners. Student debt cancellation would boost GDP, create jobs, and reduce unemployment.
Federal student debt cancellation could have a positive impact on health outcomes. A growing body of research suggests that debt is linked to negative health outcomes and contributes to existing public health disparities. Debt is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes such as stress, depression, worse self-reported general health, higher diastolic blood pressure, obesity, and even mortality. High blood pressure and obesity, in particular, are both mentioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as conditions that can increase the risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. Another study found a connection between debt and foregone medical care. Thus, broad-based student debt cancellation could have profound positive effects on health outcomes.
Cancelling student debt would disproportionately help borrowers of color, respond to the coronavirus crisis, and provide much needed economic relief. We call on you to deliver on the promise of the Biden-Harris Racial Economic Equity plan by cancelling federal student debt by executive action immediately.
Thank you for your leadership, and we look forward to working with you to address the critical issues facing our nation.
National groups: 1000 Women Strong 350.org ACLU Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) Advocates for Youth Affordable Homeownership Foundation, Inc. African American Ministers In Action Agroecology Research-Action Collective Alliance for Youth Action American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW) American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education American Association of University Professors (AAUP) American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Economic Liberties Project American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) American Medical Student Association American Psychological Association Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) Americans for Financial Reform Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO Asset Funders Network Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative Bend the Arc: Jewish Action CAARMA Consumer Advocates Against Reverse Mortgage Abuse Campaign for America’s Future Center for American Progress Center for Justice & Democracy Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research Center for Responsible Lending Change Machine Children's Defense Fund Clean Energy Action Clearinghouse on Women's Issues Coalition on Human Needs Color Of Change Communications Workers of America (CWA) Community Organizing and Family Issues Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS) Consumer Federation of America Consumer Reports Council on Social Work Education Demand Progress Demos Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) ELCA Emgage Foundation Inc EMPath: Economic Mobility Pathways Faith in Action National Network Family Equality Food & Water Watch Food Insight Group Forum for Youth Investment Franciscan Action Network Friends of the Earth U.S. Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color's Interdependence, Survival, & Empowerment Future Coalition Generation Progress Girls Inc. Greenpeace Groundwork Action HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance HBCU Collective Hip Hop Caucus Hispanic Federation Human Impact Partners IfNotNow In Our Own Voice: National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda Indivisible Insight Center for Community Economic Development International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) International Brotherhood of Teamsters International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Invest in Women Entrepreneurs Japanese American Citizens League JFI - Jain Family Institute Jobs With Justice Labor Council For Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG) League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Legal Aid at Work Liberation in a Generation Main Street Alliance March On Media Voices for Children Minority Veterans of America MomsRising MoveOn MyPath NAACP NACBHDD - National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors NARMH - National Association for Rural Mental Health National Action Network National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) National Association for College Admission Counseling National Association of Consumer Advocates National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) National Association of Social Workers (NASW) National Black Justice Coalition National Center for Law and Economic Justice National Center for Lesbian Rights National Children's Campaign National Coalition for the Homeless National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients) National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) National Domestic Violence Hotline National Education Association National Employment Law Project (NELP) National Equality Action Team (NEAT) National Fair Housing Alliance National Immigration Law Center National Indigenous Women's Resource Center National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association National League for Nursing National Nurses United (NNU) National Partnership for Women & Families National Resource Center on Domestic Violence National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition National Urban League National WIC Association National Women's Law Center National Young Farmers Coalition NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice New Entry Sustainable Farming Project NextGen America Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, IFPTE Local 70 NTEU Independent Staff Union OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates Oil Change U.S. Organic Consumers Association Our Revolution Parents Organized to Win, Educate and Renew – Policy Action Council ParentsTogether PDK International People For the American Way People's Action People’s Parity Project Poverty & Race Research Action Council Progressive Change Campaign Committee (BoldProgressives.org) Progressive Leadership Initiative Project on Predatory Student Lending Protect All Children's Environment PsychArmor Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK) Public Citizen Public Counsel Public Good Law Center Rachel Carson Council Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Revolving Door Project Rise RootsAction.org Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference SaverLife School Social Work Association of America Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill SisterSong National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective Social Security Works Social Work Helper PBC Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic and Social Justice SparkAction Strategic Organizing Center Student Action Student Borrower Protection Center Student Debt Crisis Center Student Defense Student Voice Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice SumOfUs Sunrise Movement Swipe Out Hunger Take on Wall Street Tax March The Climate Mobilization The Coalition of Labor Union Women The Congress of Essential Workers The Debt Collective The Education Trust The Feminist Front (FF) The Forum for Youth Investment The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice They Keep Bees Towards Justice U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives UE, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America UnidosUS United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) United Church of Christ, Justice and Local Church Ministries United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) United for a Fair Economy United for Respect United Parents And Students United State of Women United States Student Association UnKoch My Campus URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity Voices for Progress We the 45M Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture Working Families Party Young Invincibles YWCA USA
State and Local groups: AAFF South Region ACTION Tulsa AFGE Local 3354 (AFL-CIO) AFGE Local 704 AFSCME Local 3299 Alaska PIRG Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE) Amara Legal Center AFT Local 1650 – Henry Ford College Federation of Teachers AFT Local 1819 – Rhode Island College AFT Local 1904 – Montclair State University AFT Local 2274 – Ramapo College of New Jersey AFT Local 3457 – United College Employees of FIT AFT Local 5222 AFT Local 6191 – Cascadia Community College Federation of Teachers AFT – Oregon AFT – Washington
Arizona Education Association Arkansas Community Organizations Asian American Resource Workshop Association of Legal Aid Attorneys - UAW Local 2325 Black Economic Council of Massachusetts Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) Bucks County Womens Advocacy Coalition California LULAC Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell, Inc. Campus Action for Democracy Carolina Jews for Justice CASA Cash Campaign of Maryland Center for Economic Integrity Center for Popular Democracy Action Central Florida Jobs with Justice Centro de Vida Victoriosa AG/Church CFPB Union NTEU 335 Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Chicago Foundation for Women Chicago Jobs with Justice Chicago United for Equity Chicago Urban League Children's Defense Fund Southern Regional Office Children's Defense Fund-CA Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) Church Women United in New York State Citizen Action of Wisconsin CitySeed Civil Service Bar Association Cleveland Jobs with Justice CO Dem. Party - Energy & Environmental Initiative coasap Colorado Jobs with Justice Columbia Consumer Education Council Columbia Legal Services Communities for Our Colleges, WA Community Health Councils Community Legal Advocates of NY Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. Delaware Community Legal Services, Inc. of Philadelphia Community Service Society of New York Community Voices Heard 8 Comprehensive Youth Services Inc. Consumer Federation of California Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas Cultiva La Salud Debt-Free MD, INC. Delaware Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc. Denver Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO East Bay Community Law Center Education Minnesota Empire Justice Center Empower Our Future Equality North Carolina Every Texan Evolve California Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce Florida Asian Services Florida Asian Women Alliance Florida Student Power Network Forward Montana Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard Fresno Building Healthy Communities Friendship of Women, Inc. Generation Hope Georgia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (GACTE) Georgia Watch Grassroots Action NY Greenlining Institute Hildreth Institute Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky Hometown Action Hoosier Action Housing and Economic Rights Advocates Hudson County Central Labor Council Idaho Education Association IFPTE Local 194 Illinois Education Association Improve Your Tomorrow Indiana State Teachers Association Indivisible San Diego Instituto de Avance Latino Inc. Inversant Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Iowa State Education Association
Iowa Student Action Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. J
Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Latinx Ed Leaders Igniting Transformation Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability
Legal Action Chicago Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia Legal Services Staff Association, NOLSW/UAW 2320 Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy Los Amigos of Orange County
Louisiana Association of Educators
Louisiana Budget Project
LULAC of Simi Valley MAHA
Maine Center for Economic Policy Maine Education Association Mainers for Accountable Leadership Maryland Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Maryland Center for Colelgiate Financial Wellness
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition Maryland State Education Association
Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance Massachusetts Budget and Policy center Massachusetts Communities Action Network Massachusetts Jobs with Justice
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. c. Michigan Education Association Michigan Poverty Law Program Millennial Rhode Island Mission Possible Community Services, Inc. Mississippi Association of Educators Mississippi Center for Justice Missouri National Education Association Mobilization for Justice Montana Fair Housing Morgantown Pastoral Counseling Center, Inc. Mountain State Justice MS Black Women’s Roundtable and MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative National Association of Social Workers, Alabama Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Alaska Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Arizona Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Arkansas Chapter National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Colorado Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Connecticut Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Delaware Chapter National Association of Social Workers, DC Metro Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Florida Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Georgia Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Guam Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Hawaii Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Idaho Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Illinois Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Indiana Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Kansas Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Kentucky Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Louisiana Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Maine Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Maryland Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Michigan Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Minnesota Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Missouri Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Montana Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Nebraska Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Nevada Chapter National Association of Social Workers, New Hampshire Chapter National Association of Social Workers, New Jersey Chapter National Association of Social Workers, New Mexico Chapter National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter National Association of Social Workers, New York State Chapter National Association of Social Workers, North Carolina Chapter National Association of Social Workers, North Dakota Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Ohio Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Oklahoma Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Oregon Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Pennsylvania Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Puerto Rico Chapter 11 National Association of Social Workers, Rhode Island Chapter National Association of Social Workers, South Carolina Chapter National Association of Social Workers, South Dakota Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Tennessee Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Texas Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Utah Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Vermont Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Virginia Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Virgin Islands Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Washington Chapter National Association of Social Workers, West Virginia Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Wisconsin Chapter National Association of Social Workers, Wyoming Chapter National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Maryland Chapter NC Climate Justice Collective NEA-Alaska NEARI Network for Victim Recovery of DC New Economics for Women New Economy Project New Energy Economy New Era Colorado New Georgia Project Action Fund New Hampshire Youth Movement New Jersey Advocates of Education (NJAE) New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. New Jersey Citizen Action New Jersey Education Association New Jersey Institute for Social Justice New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) NextGen California NJ Communities United North Carolina Coalition for Responsible Lending North Carolina Council of Churches Northeast Organic Farming Association-Interstate Council (NOFA-IC) Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates: San Francisco Chapter OCA Asian Pacific Advocates - Greater Seattle OCA Greater Chicago OCA Greater Cleveland - Asian Pacific American Advocates OCA South Florida Chapter Ohio Student Association Oklahoma Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (OACTE) 12 Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation, Inc Our Revolution Michigan PA Stands Up Partnership for College Completion Pennsylvania Council of Churches Pennsylvania State Education Association Pennsylvania Utility Law Project Piedmont Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (PAPSA) Premier Women's Council Progress Virginia Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM) Public Justice Center Public Law Center Quiet Creek Herb Farm & School of Country Living Reinvestment Partners S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center Save Us Now Inc Secular Student Alliance SEIU Local 500 SEIU Local 509 SEIU Local 721 SOULS Southern Echo Inc. Southern Maryland Community Network SPACEs In Action Strong Economy For All Coalition Student Loan Fund (SLF) SW Action Tennessee Education Association Texas State Teachers Association The Center for Reparatory Justice Transformation and Remediation The Collaborative The Formerly Incarcerated College Graduates Network The Foundation for Delaware County - Housing Opportunities Program for Equity (HOPE) The Freedom BLOC The Health, Education and Legal assistance Project: A Medical-Legal Partnership at Widener University Delaware Law School (HELP: MLP) The Legal Aid Society The Midas Collaborative The New York Women's Foundation THE ONE LESS FOUNDATION The Recovery Council The South Carolina Education Association 13 Triangle Community Foundation Tzedek DC United Action for Idaho United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 400 United Vision for Idaho United Way of Greater Greensboro United Way of Southern Cameron County Unity Fellowship of Christ Church NYC University of California Graduate & Professional Council University of California Student Association Utah Education Association Vermont-NEA Virginia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (VACTE) Virginia Organizing VOCAL-NY VOICE - OKC Washington Bar Association Washington Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division Washington Education Association Wayne State University, AAUP-AFT Local 6075 We All Rise West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy West Virginia Education Association Western Center on Law and Poverty Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice Women Employed Women's March Ann Arbor Women's Rights and Empowerment Network Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Women’s Foundation of Minnesota Women’s Fund of Rhode Island WV Citizen Action Education Fund YWCA Great Falls Zero Debt Massachusetts Zonta Club of Concord, NH