New Haveners Takes Action To Write Off Student Loan Debt



Courtesy of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors

On Tuesday, student loan borrowers and elected officials gathered around Zoom to discuss the burden that student loan debt has placed on their communities and call on national leaders to cancel student loan debt.

The New Haven-based Student Loan Fund Borrower Collective was founded in October 2019 with the goal of canceling student loan debt. Since then, the group has grown to include residents of other Connecticut towns and has accepted other demands, such as making public colleges free for all. On Tuesday, the Borrowers’ Collective organized a virtual call-to-action meeting to share testimonials from borrowers who have debts of several thousand dollars. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong and State Senator Matt Lesser D-Middletown joined campaigners in calling for student debt cancellation. They also agreed to support other requests from the group, such as funding a state office to resolve loan complaints and compiling data on for-profit Connecticut colleges that use abusive lending practices. .

“The Student Loan Fund Borrower’s Collective advocates for nearly half a million Connecticut residents, who collectively owe more than $ 16 billion in student debt,” activist Calvin Rodriguez said during of Tuesday’s event. “We are working to change predatory lending systems and practices, which negatively impact us, our families and our communities so that others do not have to face this unfair burden.

Speakers at the event spoke about their own experiences with debt and explained the issue’s connection to racial justice.

Ratasha Smith, a New Haven resident, is a member of the borrower’s collective who currently owes $ 105,000 in student debt. She told attendees that she had always planned to go to college. She ended up attending Bennett College, which she described as an “oasis”. She explained that she had to pay $ 23,000 a year to attend university and take out loans to pay her tuition fees. A few years into her college career, she took time off to work at McDonalds and eventually returned to school thanks in part to more money loaned to students. Smith said her student loan debt still weighs her down to this day and only “divine intervention” or legislative action could give her the relief she needs.

New Havener Amelia Sherwood, a member of the borrower’s collective and director of anti-prejudice and anti-racism at Elm City Montessori School, currently owes about $ 120,000 in student loans. On Tuesday’s call, Sherwood said she felt the pressure to go to college because she saw it as “a ticket to success and wealth.” She said that although she graduated from Lincoln University, an HBCU near Oxford, Pa., She was not prepared to take on the financial obligations of her college education. After graduating, she took a job at a daycare that only paid $ 26,000 a year, which made it difficult for her to pay off her debt. In 2014, Sherwood got pregnant and went back to school to get her masters degree so that she could earn more money to support her newborn baby, she said. However, the job she got after graduation only paid her $ 4,000 more a year, so she took on more debt. Her experience led her to support the cancellation of all student loan debt.

Clancy Emanuel, another member of the borrower’s collective, was in debt of around $ 80,000, although he has since reduced that amount to $ 15,000. He discussed the link between student loan debt and racial justice at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Of the 45 million people with student debt, black women are the most in debt,” Emanuel said. “Canceling student debt is about social justice, be a radical switch and cancel student debt.”

Emanuel said research indicates people of color have more student loan debt than their white counterparts with an equal level of education. After 20 years of loan repayment, the median white borrower has repaid 94% of his student debt, while the median black borrower has only repaid 5%, Emanuel said. He also pointed to a figure from the Brookings Institute that suggests that a few years after graduation, black student borrowers owe on average $ 25,000 more in student loans than their white counterparts.

Speakers argued that the student loan crisis deserved government action. Some have recognized that while the political challenge is immense, the collective buy-in of the borrower and his allies can help make debt cancellation a reality.

Despite growing support from progressive sectors of the Democratic Party, President Joe Biden has not made a commitment to write off all student loan debt. The president backed a proposal to write off up to $ 10,000 in student loans and eliminate interest. But that may change soon – last week Biden asked Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to prepare a note on the legality of the cancellation of up to $ 50,000 in student loan debt by executive action .

Urged by the Borrowers Collective to support the group’s efforts to curb predatory loans and to hold a press conference to raise awareness of their plight, Tong told attendees that the student debt relief movement benefits from its support. full support.

“You have my commitment in which I will continue to commit myself [relief for student loan borrowers]Tong said. “We hunt – have hunted – a group of for-profit schools, we had a discussion about some for-profit schools and problematic schools in Connecticut.”

Tong added that he has taken steps to help student borrowers. Tong and attorneys general in 23 other states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday urged the Department of Education to write off student loan debt tied to the ITT Technical Institute, a now defunct chain of for-profit colleges. . Tong also called on President Biden to write off up to $ 50,000 in student debt.

Lesser agreed to separate the Borrower Collective’s demands on Tuesday. The Middletown area state senator has vowed to introduce legislation to end the practice of withholding student transcripts and diplomas due to debt and develop a strategy to ensure that Connecticut colleges are using exceptional help from COVID-19 to write off debt. Lesser also supported the group’s call to fund the state’s Student Loans Ombudsman – an office that helps resolve student loan complaints – and to write off all student loan-related debts through executive action by the president. Biden.

The Borrower’s Collective concluded its appeal by urging participants to sign the organization’s petition, call their local representatives to express support for student loan debt cancellation, and email the White House and to share these actions with their friends.

The Federal Reserve estimates that Americans owed more than $ 1.7 trillion in student loan debt in the last quarter of 2020.

Christian Robles | [email protected]


Christian Robles covers education and youth services. He is a second year student at Davenport College studying Political Science and Economics.


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