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What’s Next: Canceling Student Loan Debt | UCI News

On March 22, 2020, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden reiterated a campaign pledge by Twitter to “forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans,” stating, “Youth and other student debt holders have borne the brunt of the last [financial] crisis. This shouldn’t happen again. »

In his first year in office, President Biden wrote off about $16 billion in federal student loan debt through programs primarily for disabled borrowers, students defrauded by their institutions, and people who work in government. . Yet the Federal Reserve reported that nearly $1.75 trillion was owed in student loans as of December 2021. About 17% of American adults – 43.4 million Americans – owe government student loan debt, according to Federal Student Aid. And the student loan payment break launched during the COVID-19 pandemic will end on May 1, 2022.

Jeanne Scheper is one of the UCI’s leading voices on student loan debt. The associate professor and chair of gender and sexuality studies had more than $72,000 in student debt at the end of his doctorate. in English Literature at UC Santa Barbara – with 90% of loans taken for postgraduate studies. An advocate for people to share their stories of debt instead of being ashamed of them, Scheper here helps us answer “So what? with the cancellation of student debt and analyzes the systemic effects of student debt.

Canceling student debt has really come to the fore in the minds of the leaders of our country. What catalyzed the attention the topic is currently receiving?

March 2020. The pandemic has changed our perspective on many aspects of our lives. Student debt is one of the things that people are seeing in a new light. Economic impact payments through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – also known as the CARES Act – have had a measurable effect on people’s daily lives, and the countries began to see significant economic benefits from these relatively small amounts. relief provided to the health of the national economy. At the same time, student loan repayments were suspended. And along came changes to the Civil Service Loan Cancellation Program, making more people eligible for debt cancellation. From mask-wearing to a renewed sense of the benefits of government welfare programs, our idea of ​​the public good has changed. There is a growing awareness that when we talk about the public good, our approaches must consider the structural roots of racial and economic inequality.

You mentioned a program that directly affects University of California employees: the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness Program. How can someone take advantage of this opportunity?

If you have student loan debt and are employed by the University of California or in the nonprofit sector (nurses, firefighters, teachers, veterans) and think you qualify for the PSLFP, run, don’t walk not, at the Department of Education StudentAid.gov/PSLF to place. This is important: even if you did not qualify in the past, you may qualify now due to recent program changes and the new expanded eligibility which exists until October 31, 2022. The Department of Education announced on March 9, 2022 that 100,000 people are eligible for write-offs amounting to $6.2 billion in eligible loans at release.

When the changes were first announced, Kelly Anne Brown from the UC Humanities Research Institute and I hosted a webinar in the fall of 2021 titled “Student Loan Debt and the PSLFP: A Workshop with Experts.” Representatives from the UC Office of the President’s Student Financial Support Unit and Jay L. Austin, Executive Director of the Law School Admission Council’s RISE Alliance, told people about this limited opportunity, how to navigate the process, and the impact of debt on inclusive excellence. More than 1,000 people have registered for the webinar, which is accessible to watch online.

The PSLF’s effect on the UC community — on people’s well-being, future, and well-being — is potentially enormous. These changes may impact students, faculty, librarians, alumni, and parents. For years, I’ve advocated that UC have a personnel office that makes this federal program available to its eligible employees — and the need is even more urgent given these changes. More information for UC employees can be found here.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the latest student loan debt forgiveness opportunities. What programs currently exist – and where can someone find this information?

It can be difficult. First, talk to other borrowers and anyone you know whose loan has been forgiven. The PSLF application process is not easy. You need a high level of frustration tolerance. (I’m still trying to get my employer’s UC verification approved by the Department of Education after two submissions, as they tell me I still need a “handwritten signature” in addition to the signature I provided.) There are plenty of organizations that offer help in the form of workshops, toolkits, and advice. You can find a list of starter resources we put together for the webinar here.

The expansion of debt forgiveness was made possible because debtors got together and organized. It’s thanks to groups like the Collective debt, Student Debt Crisis Center, Student loan justice, Shared harvest and our unions that these opportunities exist. The self-help philosophy of the debt relief movement is “borrowers helping borrowers”. I continue to share my debt story with others because I believe we need to de-stigmatize debt in order to understand how debt works.

In higher education, much more needs to be done to understand the impact of debt on the career prospects of all our students, including our doctoral students. students. CPUs [email protected] the Graduate Career Initiative, for example, has long discussed the impact of debt on career trajectories, and as we reflect on what the public good means, it’s important to consider how debt affects our students. and our communities.

What’s on the horizon for student loan debt cancellation?

Forgiveness is on the way, because in the wake of the pandemic, no one can deny the gender and racial inequalities associated with care work and the unequal distribution of debt. The CARES Act provided historic student loan relief. There is growing national awareness because the student loan pause has revealed just how much of a difference debt cancellation makes to people’s lives and futures.

The current expansion of loan relief for public and nonprofit workers was made possible because debtors stepped up. Advocates and activists are now asking everyone to consider widespread student debt cancellation for all borrowers and understand debt in terms of economic and racial injustice, precariousness, and public education funding. More people can now imagine the huge impact that canceling student debt for all borrowers would bring.

How does student debt affect the pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education?

The debt is Redlining our schools, in part by discouraging students of color from pursuing higher education and creating other barriers to access. Debt is not about personal failure; rather, it is the result of persistent structures of inequality.

Recent studies show how debt functions as a gatekeeper for working-class and first-generation college students, women, gender-nonconforming students, and those of color. A Trust for Education 2021 study called student debt a “Jim Crow” process and an “issue of racial and economic justice.” Black borrowers in the study noted that “a system that encourages the use of student loans and ignores racial and economic evidence of inequality is designed to reproduce inequality.”

As I wrote in an article for radical teacher, we are all “mortgaged minds”. I want to be clear, however, about a common misinterpretation of this type of data. Some people learn about racial disparities in debt burden, which leads them to discourage underrepresented minorities from pursuing education, especially graduate school. This misinterpretation is a misguided attempt to shield underrepresented minorities from student loans. What is missing is that education continues to be the #1 upward mobility tool in this society.

Even when we take into account persistent racial and gender biases in employment for well-educated underrepresented minority applicants, the barriers to accessing those degrees harken back to the era of Jim Crow education. The accumulation of student debt is not the prerogative of middle-class students and the wealthy.

Lessons from the 2008 subprime housing crisis revealed massive racist predatory lending that resulted in a significant loss of wealth held in the housing stock of African Americans. We have learned similar lessons from predatory lending by for-profit education programs. Thus, the horizon of public university education is not simply egalitarian access to debt, but rather a conception of university education as a net social good and promising visions such as the free cancellation of loans of public service.

In other words, the solution to spiraling debt is not to tell some students not to take out loans and thereby reproduce education as a class and racial privilege. Rather, we must seek other solutions – such as reimbursement of public university education, debt relief and cancellation – in order to collectively imagine a system of access to higher education that is truly fair, affordable and fair in this country.

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