NEW YORK — Prominent local lawmakers have begun pushing President Joe Biden to take bold action on student loan debt, which effects at least one in eight Americans.
They want him to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for each person through executive action.
There is an estimated $1.7 trillion dollars of student debt in the United States, much of it federally backed. Roughly $240,000 of it is owed by attorney Stephanie Nicolas.
She owed about $304,000 including interest after she graduated Brooklyn Law School five years ago.
Nicolas uses her YouTube and Instagram channels dubbed Wine n’ Chill to share tips and chart her debt pay-down progress in videos like this one.
“[Debt] has completely has altered my family planning and what I want to do,” Nicolas said. “I do not want to get married and have kids while I have student loans; my boyfriend is very aware of this.”
Now a group of federal lawmakers are pointing to those types of decisions, which hurt not just individuals but the overall economy, as a reason for bold action.
“College should be a ladder up, but for too many people, debt is the anchor that weighs them down,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer said Wednesday.
Schumer was joined by progressive federal leaders, including New York freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, to press Biden to wipe out up to $50,000 in student loan debt with his executive authority under the Higher Education Act.
Watch the briefing here:
“The president can do this with a stroke of a pen,” Jones said. “That is exactly what we expect him to do, and what the American people expect him to do.”
The cost of canceling that debt would be about $650 billion dollars, the group of lawmakers estimates. However, they argue it would be a new gain for the economy, by giving those currently saddled with debt the financial freedom to do things like start businesses and buy homes.
They also say it’s about equity. Sen. Elizabeth Warren cites a statistic that said after 20 years, only five percent of white Americans have student debt, but 95% of African Americans have student debt.
Nicolas, who is of Jamaica descent, said anecdotally, this aligns with what sees this firsthand.
“The majority of my closest friends owe upwards of six figures,” she said. “Whereas most of white counterparts are paying their loans off [already] and had to borrow less because their parents were able to subsidize their education.”
Nicolas said she also feels that people of color are encouraged by law schools to enter lower paying public service sectors.
This public pressure campaign by members of Biden’s own party highlights a rift among Democrats. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during the daily briefing Biden favors only about $10,000 in student loan debt cancellation, and would like to see it done through congress, not executive action.
Psaki later clarified on Twitter that conversations were ongoing about future executive action:
The President continues to support the cancelling of student debt to bringrelief to students and families.Our team is reviewing whether there are any steps he can take through executive action and he would welcome the opportunity to sign a bill sent to him by Congress.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 4, 2021