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Photo: NNPA
Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Published: 08 April 2024

President Joe Biden has announced comprehensive plans to provide substantial relief to borrowers, particularly those from marginalized communities disproportionately burdened by debt. The proposed measures, announced on Monday, April 8, would represent a significant step towards making higher education more accessible and equitable for millions of Americans.

Despite Republican opposition and a previous rejection by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Biden-Harris administration is implementing yet another round of student loan forgiveness measures.

Since taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized reforming the federal student loan program, focusing on easing borrowers’ financial burdens. The administration has already approved debt cancellation for 4 million borrowers, offering them much-needed breathing room and economic mobility.

White House officials say that the newly unveiled plans build upon these efforts and are expected to provide relief to over 30 million borrowers, combined with previous actions taken by the administration. One of the central aims of the proposals is to address the disproportionate debt burden borne by communities of color, mainly Black and Latino borrowers.

Statistics reveal stark racial disparities within the student loan system. Black and Latino borrowers, who are more likely to take on student loans to afford a college education, often find themselves saddled with higher levels of debt compared to their white counterparts. According to a White House Fact Sheet, 20 years after enrolling in college, the typical Black borrower from the 1995–96 school year still owed a staggering 95% of their original debt.

Under the new plans, the administration wants to extend relief to borrowers facing various financial challenges, including those who owe more than their initial loan amount due to accrued interest, individuals eligible for loan forgiveness who have yet to apply, and borrowers experiencing hardship in repayment. Additionally, the proposals would offer debt cancellation for borrowers who entered repayment decades ago and assist those enrolled in low-financial-value programs.

Community college borrowers, who represent a significant portion of the student population, would also benefit from the administration’s initiatives. The Biden-Harris administration’s SAVE Plan, which aims to make community college more affordable, projects that 85% of community college borrowers could be debt-free within ten years. However, Latino students comprise a substantial proportion of community college enrollees and need help completing their degrees and repaying loans.

White House officials said, overall, the administration’s plans signal a concerted effort to tackle the student loan crisis and address systemic inequalities within the higher education system. They said the proposals aim to foster greater economic opportunity and advancement for all Americans by providing targeted relief to communities disproportionately affected by student debt.  

“These historic steps reflect President Biden’s determination that we cannot allow student debt to leave students worse off than before they went to college,” U.S. Undersecretary of Education James Kvaal said in a statement.

Kvaal added that Biden had directed the department “to complete these programs as quickly as possible, and we are going to do just that.”

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