NAACP demands Biden cancel at least $50,000 of student debt, particularly for Black borrowers

“Another simple extension on repayments won’t address the crisis,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

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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.

U.S. President Joe Biden gives remarks during a Cancer Moonshot initiative event in the East Room of the White House on February 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“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.”

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, said of Wahington Commanders coach Jack Del Rio: “You can’t coach a majority Black team while turning your back on the Black community. It’s time for you to pack up and step off the field.” (Photo: Lisa Lake/Getty Images)

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.”

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 11: Students and members of the administration at Howard University hold a rally against sexual assault on the campus of the university April 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. The rally was held as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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.”

COLUMBUS, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 29: An attendee wears a protective face covering that reads ‘vote’ during a “Get Out the Early Vote” drive-in campaign event with Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock on October 29, 2020 in Columbus, Georgia. With less than a week to go until Election Day, Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate in Georgia are continuing to campaign throughout the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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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