Biden Could Cancel Student Loan Debt Right Now By Signing an Executive Order
Imagine for a moment that your student loan balance, no matter how large, instantly drops to $ 0 and the cloud of debt that hovers over each of your financial decisions disappears. Today, by simply signing an executive order, President Biden can make that dream a reality.
When the Ministry of Education was first given the authority to grant student loans, it was also given the authority to grant "compromising, relinquishing, or releasing confiscation rights," an agency known as "compromise and agreement." In essence, the Biden government can suspend student debt collection altogether, and poof !, tens of millions of Americans would be debt-free on student loans! It would be like waving a wand, only that the wand is not magic, but a legitimate legal authority given by Congress to the Department of Education.
As the organizer of the Debt Collective, an association of debtors who work to defend households and eradicate illegitimate debts, I am part of a growing movement that is pressuring the Biden government to use this authority and over 45 million exempt student debtors. On Inauguration Day 2021, we launched the Biden Jubilee 100, where 100 student debtors withhold their payments for the first 100 days of Biden in office to leverage the financial power of their debts. We went on the physical and digital streets of the states nationwide and coordinated a week of action on student debt. More recently, we've worked with major cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, to pass bold city resolutions calling on the Biden government to erase all student debt and stimulate economic growth in communities everywhere.
Now we are stepping up the pressure again and giving Biden the key to solving this national crisis on a silver platter: we have written the entire implementing regulation for him. Thanks to the same brilliant legal minds of the debt collective who rescued compromises and settlements from oblivion, we have written the exact language Biden would have to use to cancel approximately 95% of all student loans, in accordance with existing legal powers. The president literally just needs to sign this piece of paper.
So far, Biden has offered nothing but standstill tactics, and in April called on Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to draft a memo on his legal authority to cancel student debt by executive order - having a Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Elizabeth Warren and other high profile lawmakers already established exists.
To be clear: this authority has been around for a long time. Former President Trump used this power three times to suspend payments and interest on student loans during the pandemic - our evidence that Biden's request for a memo detailing his already-used legal authority over power is unnecessary.
Our communities need help now, and student debt cancellation is something the Biden government can do today without going through our dysfunctional Congress and looking for increasingly elusive bipartisan support. Eliminating student debt would be a huge bottom-up stimulus to our economy, creating millions of new jobs, speeding up home purchases, and providing additional pandemic aid to communities still recovering from COVID-19 hardship.
And because student debt is racially regressive - black borrowers owe 100% more student debt than white borrowers four years after graduation - canceling that debt would drastically reduce a growing racial wealth gap and close the black and white wealth gap for student loan borrowers by more than 25 percentage points. Almost two-thirds of student debts are held by women, who often struggle to repay loans after being systemically underpaid in the workplace.
A widespread rejection would benefit our veterans, farmers, teachers, public defenders, and myriad other professionals who are often required to get costly degrees but are not properly paid. Healthcare workers, the most heavily burdened student debt worker in all industries, would also benefit from debt relief. What better way to thank the doctors, nurses, and social workers who hold double the nation's student debt for their pandemic sacrifices than to give them a debt anniversary? Specifically, if Biden gets rid of student debt, we could end the garnishment of thousands of seniors' monthly social security checks to pay off old loan debts and interest, a huge barrier to any successful poverty reduction program.
While this is not an all-encompassing solution to college reform, student debt relief puts us on the path to a toll-free college and a return of education to a public good rather than a privatized company with customers who happen to be students. We could give a generation of high school students the opportunity to enroll in college without mortgaging their futures or stepping in as dystopian proxy for financial aid to the military. We could also contain the 9 in 10 student borrowers who are facing significant anxiety due to their credit burdens, too many of which are depressed or even suicidal.
The racial, economic, and moral incentives to eradicate student debt are imperative, but perhaps Biden should weigh the political risks involved in not using his legal powers. Forty percent of registered black voters, like me, say they would strongly consider sitting out the next election unless the student debt was canceled. Biden would be unwise to piss off voters like me, a black voter under the age of 25 with nearly $ 50,000 in student debt. Incidentally, it would be unwise to call any voter who remembers Biden's clear statement: "Every American should be forgiven at least $ 10,000 in student loan debt."
Given the inability of Congress to get big things done and an upcoming federal election where the loss of seats in the House of Representatives appears historically inevitable for Democrats, Biden should act quickly to sign this student debt cancellation ordinance and begin making the unique ones to loosen American shackles of indebtedness. The former senator might also consider granting debt relief to correct the injustice of his decades-long assault on borrower protection, a toxic legal story that debtors are all too familiar with.
With the stroke of a pen, Biden could give tens of millions of Americans a semblance of financial freedom while keeping one of his most important election promises. Fortunately for debtors, this signature from Biden isn't the only path to liberation. In the age of financial capitalism, as debtors, we should view our debts as assets that we can jointly use against governments and financial institutions. We can get complete repeal through campaigns of economic disobedience, growing debtor associations, and by continuing to challenge the myth of a debtor who made poor choices as an individual. We have no choice but to fight for debt eradication and a society where everyone has the means to live. Now we must use that will to get this implementing regulation on President Biden's desk immediately and by whatever means necessary.
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check Out This: 5 Young People On Why They Refuse To Pay Their Student Loans
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Originally published in Teen Vogue
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