Black Grads Trapped In College Debt As Biden Rules Out $50K Student Loan Forgiveness, Opts For $10K

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Black Grads
Black Grads Trapped In College Debt As Biden Rules Out $50K Student Loan Forgiveness, Opts For $10K. In this photo, graduate students cheer as President Barack Obama delivers a commencement speech at the 2016 Howard University graduation ceremony in Washington, May 7, 2016. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Student loan debt is a burden on many Americans, but for Black grads that burden is disproportionately heavier. Many have been looking to President Joe Biden, his administration and the Democratic party’s proposal to cancel student loan debt to find some relief. However, Biden made it clear on Tuesday he was only willing to forgive $10,000 of student loan debt, which means anyone with more than that will still feel the brunt of the burden.

“I will not make that happen,” Biden told an audience member who asked him to cancel the $50 million per borrower some Democrats have proposed during a CNN town in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Biden said he and members of his family had also incurred six-figure student loan debt so he understood the adverse impact it could have on someone’s life, according to NBC News. However, he said he couldn’t forgive the $50,000 on his own authority.

“My point is: I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating,” Biden said. “I am prepared to write off the $10,000 debt but not $50 [thousand], because I don’t think I have the authority to do it.”

The lack of action to cancel the $50,000 debt leaves many Black college graduates with steep student loan bills as they are not only more likely to incur student loan debt than their white counterparts, but less likely to pay it back due to systemic racism and inequity in society.

According to a study by JPMorgan Chase on the matter, Black borrowers “are twice as likely as white borrowers to be projected to never be able to pay off their student loan debt.” The study noted, “one likely cause, the study noted, is that the median income of Black student loan borrowers is approximately $12,500 lower, or 22 percent less, than the income of white student loan borrowers.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a statement in which they said they would continue to push for the forgiveness after Biden made the comments.

“Canceling $50,000 in federal student loan debt will help close the racial wealth gap, benefit the 40% of borrowers who do not have a college degree, and help stimulate the economy. It’s time to act. We will keep fighting,” the statement said.

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A recent national poll conducted by Color of Change shows most Black voters are in favor of eliminating student loan debt altogether. Results show 56 percent of Black voters have taken out loans to fund higher education – 84 percent of whom support full or partial student loan debt elimination.

“Black voters who were responsible for delivering not only a majority in the Senate, but [also] a Biden-Harris administration … overwhelmingly want to see sweeping reform in terms of student loan elimination,” said Arisha Hatch, vice president and chief of campaigns at Color Of Change.

It is an issue Black graduates say adversely affects their daily lives. They believe leader who fail to adequately address the crisis don’t have their best interests at heart.

“I feel like someone who would disagree with me on this, and still would want my vote, is fundamentally not standing with me in this fight for racial justice,” said Hadiyah Daché, 34, an alumna of the historically Black a Clark Atlanta University who has over $32,000 in student loan debt. “Even with the scraps we’re getting, we are still able to persevere. But this is the one thing holding a lot of us back from really moving forward financially.”

Pensacola, Florida resident Iesha Ison, 32, has over $160,000 in student loans after obtaining bachelor and master’s degrees. She said the cost of living in her area combined with having a family have caused her to lie paycheck to paycheck.

“I have co-workers who are struggling with student loan debt, because in the field we work in, you don’t make enough to pay what [student loan lenders] are asking,” Ison told NBC Nwws. “Student loan debt is what really stood out to me during this election, because it has got in the way of the American dream.” She also said canceling $50,000 would be a “drop in the bucket” for her.

For now, it is not a move Biden seems willing to make, rather committing to the $10,000 and working to eliminate student loan interest.

“I do think that, in this moment of economic pain and strain, that we should be eliminating interest on the debts that are accumulated, number one. And, number two, I’m prepared to write off the $10,000 debt, but not” $50,000, Biden said.