That’s why the NAACP keeps talking about student loan amnesty

NAACP President Derrick Johnson

Courtesy: NAACP

At the end of May, word circulated that the Biden administration was in favor of a student loan amnesty plan of $ 10,000 per borrower.

NAACP officials were furious.

The association’s president and CEO, Derrick Johnson, said in a statement shortly after the news broke that $ 10,000 “in cancellation would be a slap in the face.”

The swift condemnation by the nation’s oldest civil rights organization was not unusual – it has made the student debt crisis one of its major problems of late and insists that President Joe Biden will fail in his promise to shrink. the racial wealth gap if it does not relieve an amount greater than the country’s outstanding education debt balance of $ 1.7 trillion. (The typical black family in the United States had a net worth of $ 23,000 in 2019, compared to $ 184,000 for the average white family.)

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CNBC recently spoke to Johnson, 53, who has run the organization for five years, about why the NAACP keeps talking about student debt cancellation. (Editor’s note: the interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Annie Nova: Why is the NAACP so focused on student loan forgiveness as a way to narrow the racial wealth gap?

Derrick Johnson: the no 1 wealth factor in this country is home ownership, but you can’t qualify for a home if your debt-to-income ratio is too high and the no. 1 debt for African Americans right now is student loans. As a result, there are no ways to bridge the racial wealth gap without first addressing the student loan crisis in a substantial way.

AN: Why are black Americans disproportionately burdened with student debt?

DJ: There has been a sharp increase in the past 20 years of African Americans attending college, and this is exactly the same time as many higher education institutions have started to raise their tuition. States began to cut taxes and raise their costs. This is coupled with the many predatory institutions that have emerged.

AN: Why do you think $ 10,000 in forgiveness isn’t enough?

DJ: He’s throwing a bucket of ice on a forest fire. All the data shows that the average debt level of African Americans far exceeds $ 10,000. Cancellation must be a minimum of $ 50,000.

AN: How could the student loan amnesty affect the turnout of black voters in the mid-term of November?

DJ: All of our research shows that one of the most important things stimulating African American voters is the student debt crisis. And these are consistent voters: teachers, school administrators, individuals working in the public sector. The question is, what are you going to do for these loyal voters who showed up in record numbers in 2020 to give them the kind of inspiration to get back to those high levels?

AN: What do you foresee will happen if there is no action here?

DJ: You have families where you have grandparents, children and grandchildren all burdened with student debt. It’s a generational problem, and it’s only accelerating. This is no different from the mortgage crisis in 2008. The only difference then is that people could go bankrupt and leave home and be kept harmless. With student loans, there is hardly anything you can do to relieve yourself.

AN: Did you have student loans?

DJ: Absolutely. I am a first generation, university student and law school. I had no other options: there was no family member who could write the check. There was no home loan to take advantage of.