Black college graduates are overwhelmed by student loan debt. On average, they owe $25,000 more in student loan debt than white college graduates. Four years after graduation, 48 percent of Black students owe an average of 12.5 percent more than they borrowed, according to Education Data Initiative.
This debt, experts say, is hindering Black Americans from growing their wealth.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who has represented New York since 1999, and NAACP president Derrick Johnson have teamed up to urge President Joe Biden to cancel student debt. In a joint opinion piece for BET, they wrote that the racial wealth divide will persist as long as student debt grows.
Biden is still planning to resume loan payments on May 1.
There has been a pause of student-loan payments for nearly two years as part of Biden and President Donald Trump’s pandemic relief measures. Johnson, Schumer and other lawmakers and advocates want Biden to totally cancel student debt, as it could help close the racial wealth gap as well as stimulate the economy.
The opinion piece, posted on Feb. 28, detailed the impact of student debt in the country on Black borrowers. Schumer and Jackson noted how Black borrowers are more likely to take out student loans to begin with than their white counterparts, and while the median white borrower will owe just 6 percent of their student debt 20 years after entering college, the median Black borrowers will still owe 95 percent of their debt over the same time period, Business Insider reported.
“This disparity is unacceptable,” Schumer and Johnson wrote. “It is un-American. And at the current rate, it is entirely unsustainable.”
They added, “We still have a long way to go to bridge the racial wealth divide in America. And it will not likely happen so long as student debt continues to grow at its current pace.”
Some 70 percent of Black borrowers support extending the payment pause, with 75 percent of the same group supporting the cancellation of some or all student debt for borrowers, found a recent poll from Data for Progress and the Student Borrower Protection Center.
According to Schumer and Johnson, canceling student debt should be easy.
“President Biden has offered millions of borrowers critical relief by extending the pause on student loan payments during the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote. “It’s time for the President to take the next step: if the Biden Administration can pause debt, then they can cancel it too.”