Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) outlined his plan to cancel $50,000 worth of federal student loans for individual borrowers on a phone call with New York college students Wednesday.
“For far too many students and too many graduates many years out of school, Federal student loans and student loans, in general, are becoming a forever burden,” Schumer said in the press call, which included students from public and private universities across the state. “A college education should be a ladder up. But for so many graduates, [student loan debt] is an anchor weighing them down.”
In the call, Schumer said student loan debt burdens New York students at an especially high rate.
“New Yorkers owe a total of $90 billion in federal student loans… [Federal student loan debt] for the average New York borrower is $34,000,” Schumer said.
Schumer’s resolution calls on President Joe Biden to use federal authority granted under the Higher Education Act to immediately cancel $50,000 of federal student loan debt for all borrowers.
“We don’t have to go through Congress. We don’t have to worry about 60 votes. The President and the Secretary of Education [Miguel Cardona] can do this on their own,” Schumer said. “The Federal government has the authority to say, ‘I have a loan with you, I’m not going to make you pay that loan.’”
Schumer introduced his resolution in early February with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA). The resolution is backed by progressive politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Schumer said student loan cancellation is “a racial justice issue as well as a fairness issue,” as he cited pre-prepared statistics.
“The bottom line is that 28% of the wealth gap between all African Americans and all whites is caused by student debt,” Schumer said. “A third of Latinx borrowers default on their loans. Black borrowers have about a 50-50 chance of defaulting on their loans. And, after 15 years, the average white borrower owes a much smaller percentage of debt than the [average] African American borrower.”
President Biden says he opposes Democratic demands to cancel $50,000 of federal student loans per person, because he believes he lacks the “authority” to do so.
“I understand the impact of debt, and it can be debilitating. I am prepared to write off the $10,000 in debt but not 50 [thousand dollars] because I don’t think I have the authority to do it,” Biden said during a CNN Presidential Town Hall on Feb. 16.
During the 2020 campaign, Biden ran on a promise to “forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities and private HBCUs and MSIs (minority-serving institutions) for debt-holders earning up to $125,000,” according to Politifact.
In the phone call with New York college students, Schumer emphasized the need for students to unite around $50,000 of student loan cancellation and mount a pressure campaign on President Biden.
Savannah Chadwick, vice president of UB Dems and deputy communications director of New York College Democrats, is part of the campaign pressuring the President and other politicians to cancel $50,000 of federal student loans.
“The reason that we need to pressure politicians about this, right now, is that without the pressure it will not get done,” Chadwick said. “If [college students] put demands to cancel $50,000 in front of politicians and keep pushing it and pushing it, they will have to look at it straight on.”
Chadwick has brought the student-led campaign to the national level.
“I’ve talked to numerous states’ federations for College Democrats and they’re all on board with working together on creating a plan on how to push the administration into canceling $50,000 of student debt,” Chadwick said. “We’re planning on phone banking, writing, everything. We have to use all of our resources in this because it’s an uphill battle.”
Chadwick said it is always important to cancel student debt, but especially now, during the pandemic.
“People need it right now. Everyone is struggling, especially college students who need relief right now. Also, it will provide a very much needed economic boost,” Chadwick said. “It’s important that [college students] take part in this to prove that we have a voice.”
Brendan Kelly is the assistant news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org