Berkeley universities

Student debt: 1,000 professors push Biden to cancel student loans

More than 1,000 faculty members from universities across the country have signed a letter stressing the importance for President Joe Biden to track and cancel student debt for those who borrowed through the federal system. The collective is urging the Biden administration to forgive student loan debt before those payments resume, and student loan forbearance is set to end, May 1. Here’s what you need to know.

“We see universal debt cancellation as a powerful first step in the process of reinvesting in quality public education,” reads the letter, organized by the Debt Collective and signed by professors from top universities, including Yale, Berkeley and Columbia, according to Initiated. The letter acknowledges that canceling student debt will not resolve persistent inequalities in access to higher education, but they note that it is an essential first step.

They are calling on Biden to keep his campaign promise to reduce student debt. In the letter, the collective argues that the government does not need these federal student loan interest and payments, and that was recently proven.

“As of March 2020, interest and payments on federal student loans have been suspended, proving that the federal government does not actually need our student loan payments to function,” the letter states. However, with the resumption of payments fast approaching, professors are putting more pressure on the government to follow through.

When Biden was running for president, part of his campaign platform included canceling $10,000 in student debt per borrower. And while President Biden canceled some of the student debt of hundreds of thousands of borrowers (some $17 billion) – for people who have been defrauded by for-profit colleges and for those who can’t work to pay off their loans, widespread loan forgiveness has yet to happen.

And while those changes have been beneficial, it’s a far cry from the administration’s campaign promises for the remaining 45 million Americans who still have student debt and no timeline for when or if those will be included in any future discounts. Debt forgiveness, for example, is not included in President Biden’s 2023 budget proposal.

According to US Department of Education. This corresponds to an approximate average of $57,520 in student debt owed per household. This debt hold back the Americans to have children, buy houses, and save for retirement. Some parents pay off their own student debt, for example, while trying to figure out how to pay for their child’s college aspirations.

And while debt cancellation is likely something dead when it arrives in Congress, the signing professors say Biden doesn’t need to go through Congress to make that first move.

“Through executive action, President Biden has complete legal authority to eliminate student loan debt on his own — without Congress — and this is a step supported by a majority of Americans,” continues the letter. “In fact, the Debt Collective has already drafted an executive order that President Biden could sign today to end this financial burden.”

Adding: “In other industrialized countries, higher education, like health care, is considered a public good and a right, but in the United States it has been turned into an expensive commodity. Universal debt cancellation would be the first serious step towards the College for All goal that we have seen in our lifetimes.