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Over 325 Orgs Call on President-Elect Biden to Cancel Student Debt using Executive Action

January 15, 2020

Over 325 organizations signed a letter to President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris, calling on them to use executive authority to cancel federal student debt on day one of their administration. This letter is a re-release of a November letter, and has been updated with more than 85 additional signers.

The letter was led by Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, Demos, the National Consumer Law Center, and Student Borrower Protection Center. You can find the press release here.

The full text of the letter can be found below. A PDF of the letter can be found here.###

January 15, 2020

We, the 328 undersigned community, civil rights, climate, health, consumer, labor, and student advocacy organizations write to urge you to boost the economy, tackle racial disparities, and provide much-needed stimulus to help all Americans weather the pandemic and the associated recession by using executive authority to cancel federal student debt on Day One of your administration.

Before the COVID-19 public health crisis began, student debt was already a drag on the national economy, weighing heaviest on Black and Latinx communities, as well as women. That weight is likely to be exponentially magnified given the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 is taking 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 to protect student loan borrowers, including Parent PLUS borrowers, by cancelling existing debt.

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 September, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a Senate resolution, joined by 12 other senators, to call on the next President to use executive action to cancel $50,000 in federal student loans for individual borrowers. The resolution highlights that the Higher Education Act empowers the Secretary of Education to cancel federal student debt administratively.

During the campaign, you endorsed $10,000 of 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. 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 provide a much-needed economic stimulus. 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 cancelled, 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 most 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 and stimulus. 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 on Day One of your administration.

Thank you for your leadership, and we look forward to working with you to address the critical issues facing our nation.


National Groups: Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) Advocates for Youth Affordable Homeownership Foundation, Inc. AFT Local 1904–Montclair State University Agroecology Research-Action Collective Alliance for Strong Families and Communities Alliance for Youth Action American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW) American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Economic Liberties Project American Federation of Teachers 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 Campaign for America’s Future Center for Justice & Democracy Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research Center for Popular Democracy Action Center for Responsible Lending CFPB Union NTEU 335 Change to Win Children’s Defense Fund Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues Coalition on Human Needs Communications Workers of America 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) Economic Justice Ministries, United Church of Christ Emgage Foundation Inc EMPath: Economic Mobility Pathways Faith in Action National Network Family Equality 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 Generation Progress Girls Inc. Greenpeace Hispanic Federation Human Impact Partners In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda Indivisible Insight Center for Community Economic Development Invest in Women Entrepreneurs Japanese American Citizens League Jobs With Justice Labor Council For Latin American Advancement Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG) League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Legal Aid at Work Liberation in a Generation 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 for Latino Community Asset Builders 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 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 National Equality Action Team (NEAT) National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association National Partnership for Women & Families National Urban League National WIC Association National Women’s Law Center National Young Farmers Coalition New Entry Sustainable Farming Project NextGen America Nonprofit Professional Employees Union, IFPTE Local 70 OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates Oil Change U.S. Organic Consumers Association Parents Organized to Win, Educate and Renew – Policy Action Council PDK International People For the American Way People’s Action People’s Parity Project Progressive Change Campaign Committee ( Progressive Leadership Initiative Project on Predatory Student Lending Protect All Children’s Environment Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK) Public Citizen Public Good Law Center Rachel Carson Council Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Revolving Door Project Rise School Social Work Association of America Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) SisterSong National Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective Social Security Works Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice SparkAction Student Action Student Borrower Protection Center Student Debt Crisis Student Defense Student Voice 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 Towards Justice U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives UE, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America UnidosUS 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 Working Families Party Young Invincibles

State Groups:

AAFF South Region ACTION Tulsa AFGE Local 3354 (AFL-CIO) AFGE Local 704 AFT-Oregon AKPIRG Amara Legal Center American Federation of Teachers, Local 2274 Ramapo College of New Jersey American Federation of Teachers, Washington Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey Arkansas Community Institute Arkansas Community Organizations Association of Legal Aid Attorneys – UAW Local 2325 Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) Bucks County Womens Advocacy Coalition California LULAC Carolina Jews for Justice CASA Cash Campaign of Maryland Center for Economic Integrity Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Chicago United for Equity Chicago Urban League Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office Children’s Defense Fund-CA Church Women United in New York State Citizen Action of Wisconsin CitySeed Civil Service Bar Association Cleveland Jobs with Justice coasap Communities for Our Colleges, WA Community Legal Services, Inc. of Philadelphia Community Service Society of New York Community Voices Heard Comprehensive Youth Services Inc. Consumer Federation of California Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Texas Debt-Free MD, INC. Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc. Denver Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO East Bay Community Law Center Education Minnesota Empire Justice Center Equality North Carolina Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce Florida Asian Services Florida Asian Women Alliance Forward Montana Friendship of Women, Inc. Generation Hope Georgia Watch Grassroots Action NY Greenlining Institute Hildreth Institute Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky Hometown Action Housing and Economic Rights Advocates Hudson County Central Labor Council IFPTE Local 194 Indivisible San Diego Inversant Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Iowa Student Action Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc. Just-A-Start Corporation Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Leaders Igniting Transformation Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia Legal Services Staff Association, NOLSW/UAW 2320 Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy Los Amigos of Orange County Louisiana Budget Project LSCNY, Inc. LULAC of Simi Valley MAHA Maine Center for Economic Policy Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center Massachusetts Jobs with Justice Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc. Michigan Poverty Law Program Millennial Rhode Island Mission Possible Community Services, Inc. Mississippi Center for Justice Mobilization for Justice Montana Fair Housing Morgantown Pastoral Counseling Center, Inc. MS Black Women’s Roundtable and MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Maryland Chapter NC Climate Justice Collective Network for Victim Recovery of DC New Economics for Women New Economy Project New Era Colorado New Georgia Project 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 Institute for Social Justice New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) NextGen California NJ Communities United 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 Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation, Inc PA Stands Up Pennsylvania Council of Churches Piedmont Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (PAPSA) Premier Women’s Council Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Public Counsel Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM) Public Justice Center Public Law Center Quiet Creek Herb Farm & School of Country Living Reinvestment Partners Rhode Island College AFT Local 1819 S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center Save Us Now Inc SEIU Local 509 SOULS Southern Echo Inc. Southern Maryland Community Network SPACEs In Action Strong Economy For All Coalition The Freedom BLOC The Health, Education and Legal assistance Project: A Medical-Legal Partnership at Widener University Delaware Law School (HELP: MLP) The Midas Collaborative THE ONE LESS FOUNDATION The Recovery Council Triangle Community Foundation Tzedek DC United Action for Idaho United Vision for Idaho Unity Fellowship of Christ Church NYC Virginia Organizing VOCAL-NY VOICE – OKC Wayne State University, AAUP-AFT Local 6075 We All Rise West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice Women Employed Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Women’s Foundation of Minnesota Women’s Fund of Rhode Island Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network WV Citizen Action Education Fund Zero Debt Massachusetts


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