“Another simple extension on repayments won’t address the crisis,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.
President Joe Biden is expected to make a decision on whether to extend a national pause on student loan debt payments or issue some form of cancellation by Aug. 31, when the current moratorium on payments expires. As the White House mulls over its decision, members of the NAACP are demanding that the president eliminate a large portion of debt for Black borrowers.
During Friday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden is taking the student debt crisis “very seriously,” given the nation’s current state of inflation and growing concerns over the economy.
“He understands the burden that student loans has on families, and so, he wants to make sure he is making a decision that is thoughtful,” Jean-Pierre told theGrio’s Gerren Keith Gaynor. She reiterated that the president would make his final decision by Aug. 31.
Wisdom Cole, national director of youth and college at the NAACP, told theGrio that student debt impacts Black borrowers disproportionately.
“Black borrowers are physically impacted by the weight that student debt has,” Cole asserted.
“Student debt is something that is causing a barrier for folks to get their lives started. For folks who are interested in becoming homeowners, business owners, or just being able to start a family. Student debt is something that weighs heavily on us.”
Cole said that students are “sold” the illusion that by receiving a degree they will land their dream job accompanied with a livable salary, but “instead of that being the case, Black borrowers end up leaving college with an average of $53,000 in student debt” and without a way to pay it back.
His statements echo NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson, who wrote a letter to President Biden last week demanding he cancels at least $50,000 for Black borrowers through an executive order.
“No American should have to begin paying back their predatory student loans next month. Yet, another simple extension on repayments won’t address the crisis,” Johnson declared.
He continued, “It will not address the economic oppression that has plagued generations of Black families, and other minority communities, for decades and centuries.”
In his letter, Johnson said the president’s student debt cancellation plan should use “equity” as a guide and “must include a focus on Black Americans.”
He added, “We should be investing in an educated population, not punishing those willing to earn an education.”
Cole told theGrio that those looking to vote in the upcoming midterm elections should cast their ballots for candidates who have concrete student debt cancellation plans.
“What do they want? What are you planning to ensure that student debt cancellation happens? What are you doing to ensure that you are being a vocal ally? A vocal supporter? A vocal candidate to ensure that you do all that you can to ensure this happens,” he remarked. “We really need to make sure that candidates have plans and aren’t just telling us what we want to hear, but actually working to make it a reality.”
Cole warned that if Biden does not cancel student debt it may be difficult for him to win the presidential election in 2024.
“This is going to be another blow to young Black folks who have been supporting, who stepped out during the midst of the global pandemic and were working the polls and were coming out and ensuring their peers were turning out,” Cole stated.
He continued, “I think if Biden doesn’t cancel student debt during this term it’s going to be hard to rally folks around him, particularly young Black folks.”
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