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‘It was Definitely Over $100,000’: Black Graduates Saddled with Thousands in Loan Debt Support NAACP Pressuring Biden to Cancel Student Loan Debt

The NAACP is calling out the Biden administration for its repeated delays in cancelling student loan debt that’s adversely affecting African-American borrowers. The deadline to restart paused student loan repayments since the COVID-19 pandemic began expires on August 31, and the civil rights organization wants the White House to act now.

Amber Roberts, 33, and her husband, Anthony, of Tampa, Florida, are raising their three young children ages 1, 4 and 8 years old, and like many college-educated Black parents, they are saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

“I believe the last time I looked, with undergrad and grad, and the majority of my student loans came from grad school, it was definitely over $100,000,” said Roberts.

Roberts graduated with her master’s degree in social work in 2016, she now works as a school-based mental health therapist, a job she is passionate about.

“It’s very heartwarming to be able to give those students a voice because a lot of times most of them feel like they don’t have a voice and no one’s listening to them, so it really makes a difference,” said Roberts.

The not-so-heartwarming part of her career is the mounting debt she has amassed, and she is not alone. Black borrowers typically owe 50 percent more in student loan debt upon graduation than white borrowers and four years after graduation, the gap increases to 100%. On average, Black borrowers have nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation, almost twice as much as their white counterparts according to Brookings research.

With this problem adversely affecting African-Americans, the NAACP has urged President Biden to do more than deliver usual talking points about canceling student loan debt. As of now, federal student loan payments have been on a pause for roughly 40 million Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and interest on those loans has been at zero percent according to a CBS news report, but the pause is set to expire on August 31.

In a letter sent to President Biden on July 28, NAACP National President Derrick Johnson told Biden, “Another simple extension on repayments won’t address the crisis” and “it will not address the economic oppression that has plagued generations of Black families” the letter says it part. Johnson called for an executive order to address the student loan debt crisis. Johnson added in his letter, “any extension to be accompanied by meaningful cancellation” and urged Biden to, “cancel a minimum of $50,000 as Black borrowers — drowning in an average of $53,000 in student debt — have virtually no realistic way to pay it back in today’s unjust economy.”

“This is equity, this is looking at how much wealth Black Americans amassed and then the destruction of it,” said Kiana Sears, president of the East Valley Arizona NAACP chapter.

Sears fully supports the NAACP pressuring the Biden administration to cancel student loan debt noting the long-standing impacts well after graduation hurting Black families.

“Looking at a population of Black American women in America, we’re going to college at a high rate but as we’re also carrying the most debt so once we graduate, how many barriers is there to home ownership and creating wealth?” said Sears.

On July 26, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, addressed mounting questions about student loan debt. “As far as the loan cancellation, look, he understands what this means for families, how burdensome this can be, I just don’t have anything more to say and he said himself by the end of August,” Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing.

With a deadline fast approaching for loan payments restarting, borrowers like Roberts hope Biden makes a decision soon to cancel student loan debts or at least wipe out $50,000 dollars in debt as the NAACP requested.

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