NAACP pushes for $50k in student loan debt cancellation to address racial debt divide

WASHINGTON D.C. — The NAACP is pushing for elected officials to go beyond the new federal student loan debt forgiveness program to help minority students.

Federal data shows Black students are one of the fastest-growing groups borrowing money for education over the last two decades and experts say minority students often borrow at much higher rates too.

“We need it [debt] canceled completely or at least at $50,000 minimum,” said Aiden Thompson, a sophomore at Howard University.

Some Howard University students are echoing nationwide calls for the federal government to cancel $50,000 more in student loan debt.

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“$50,000 won’t even solve it for everybody but it’s about providing a safety net,” said Sydney Stokes, a sophomore at Howard University.

Research from the Brookings Institute shows Black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average compared to white graduates. The report shows this racial divide more than triples to $25,000 over the next few years.

“Education, especially higher education, isn’t supposed to be the great equalizer. It’s supposed to be the path to the middle class,” said Jared Bass, senior director of higher education for the Center for American Progress.

Bass works at the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan policy institute. He said there are systematic hurdles facing minority students.

“The issue of how Black and brown individuals or students feel like they have to go to grad school in order to be able to earn as much or have the same economic potential as some of their white counterparts,” said Bass.

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There are already opponents to President Joe Biden’s current plan, which cancels up to $20,000. Most are Republicans who argue this will make inflation worse.

But Bass says this plan also opens the door to find other solutions.

“We can decrease the need for borrowers, Black and brown borrowers and white borrowers to have to borrow in the first place,” said Bass.

Bass said another solution is increasing the Pell Grant, which also benefits a significant number of minority students.