Student debt relief isn’t unfair. It’s overdue

OPINION: Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calling debt relief "wildly unfair" is hypocritical nonsense. It’s not like the GOP had any kind of alternative solutions to the student debt crisis.

(Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

When President Joe Biden announced his plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt to Americans earning under $125,000 per year ($250,000 for married couples or heads of households) on Wednesday, he not only delivered on one of his biggest campaign promises. He removed one of the biggest financial weights hanging around millions of Americans’ necks.

Let me make it clear. President Biden’s plan, coupled with his student loan pause extension, will provide critical relief for roughly 43 million Americans (95 percent of borrowers) and cancel student debt entirely for nearly 20 million Americans.

That’s a win in anyone’s book.

Of course, there will always be those who want to naysay and criticize. After all, we know that nothing, be it executive or legislative action, will ever please all four corners of America.

You simply can’t please all of the people all of the time.

But I do take issue with the hypocrisy coming from across the aisle from people like Sen. Mitch McConnell calling student loan debt relief “wildly unfair.”

Aren’t these the same Republicans who pushed through the Trump tax cuts, which slashed the corporate tax rate by 40 percent, providing a windfall to the richest Americans while the rest of us were left to pick up the slack?  But, somehow, helping working-class folks put their kids through school is unfair. Explain to me how that works, senator.

debt relief
Student loan borrowers and the Too Much Talent Band thank President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for extending the student loan pause and now demand that they cancel student debt at a gathering outside The White House on January 13, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

Of course, I don’t really expect an explanation. It’s not like the GOP had any kind of alternative solution to the student debt crisis.

President Biden, on the other hand, has taken the bull by the horns with a plan that actually works.

Let’s look at the facts. President Biden’s plan will:

  • Provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 per year or households earning less than $250,000 per year.
  • Extend the federal student loan pause a final time through Dec. 31 to provide borrowers a smooth transition back to repayment.
  • Make the student loan system more manageable for current and future borrowers by cutting monthly payments in half for undergraduate loans and holding schools accountable when they hike up prices.

That means 90 percent of relief dollars are going to borrowers earning less than $75,000 per year. That’s the textbook definition of helping folks who need it the most.

In fact, a typical Black borrower will see his/her balance cut nearly in half thanks to this plan even before applying the additional $10,000 for Pell grant recipients while one in four Black borrowers will have their student debt forgiven entirely, according to the White House. That means that the first $10,000 of debt relief alone will move over half a million Black Americans from negative net worth to positive.

Combine that impact with the $5.8 billion invested in our nation’s HBCUs through the recovery act and the $32 billion in loan relief over 1.6 million Americans have already received and you have a game changer.

That’s not unfair. It’s overdue…long overdue.

Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, a CBS News political contributor, and a senior visiting fellow at Third Way. Follow him on Twitter @antjuansea.

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