Less than 24 hours after news broke that President Biden is seriously considering canceling tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, organizers mobilized.
Students from the Washington, D.C. area joined advocates from Move On, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other groups in chants of “cancel student debt” at a rally in front of the White House on April 27.
An all-star cast of Democratic members of Congress also attended the rally to pressure the Biden administration to take action on student loan debt, which now totals over $1.7 trillion.
“The U.S. Department of Education currently holds so much student loan debt that it’s now the nation’s largest consumer bank,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). “That’s ridiculous.”
“At this point you’re not even paying off your loan, you are paying off the interest on that loan,” Tlaib added. “The system is broken.”
At the start of the pandemic in spring 2020, the Trump administration paused student loan payments. Since then, the pause has been extended six times, allowing debtors to use scarce funds to meet basic needs rather than paying down their debts. Before the pause, monthly student loan payments averaged $460.
But simply delaying these payments is not enough to address the crisis.
“We have 45 million people in this country who are shackled with student debt,” said. Rep. Ihan Omar (D-MN). “You have to realize, that’s 45 million people who are putting off the opportunity to start that business they want to start. That is 45 million people who are putting off the family they want to start. That is 45 million people who go to sleep every night, wake up every morning, stressed with the anxiety of having that massive student debt holding them back.”
“We have sold the idea that education is the great equalizer and in order for them to get ahead, that requires higher education,” Omar added. “But we have not created the opportunity and resources for them to do that.”