STATEMENT: Roosevelt Institute Responds to Student Debt Relief

Announcement is the first step toward a new approach to higher education; cancelation will help to alleviate the crushing burden of student debt loans for millions of borrowers

August 24, 2022
Ariela Weinberger
(212) 444-9130

The Roosevelt Institute applauds the Biden administration’s decision to cancel up to $10,000 in student debt for those making under $125,000 with an additional $10,000 for Pell Grant recipients—an essential first step to building a just and equitable public higher education system. We at the Roosevelt Institute have long fought against the persistent and compounding harms of student debt, particularly for Black and brown borrowers, and have continuously called for large-scale cancellation of federal student debt as well as universal free college.

Today’s decision recognizes that shifting the cost of higher education to students through debt was a policy mistake that built new inequalities into an already unequal higher education system. Furthermore, it offers a sharp contrast to the ahistorical approach to public policy that claims we all enter a market on equal footing despite the legacy of past injustices.

In acknowledging the failings of past policies, today’s debt cancellation begins to correct for past mistakes. Going forward, policymakers must go further with policy that treats higher education as a public good that can help reduce inequality and racial disparities while building a stronger democracy and economy.

Response from Roosevelt Institute Student Debt Experts

“Today is the first time an administration has acknowledged that the policy decision to rest the financing of higher education on individuals was a mistake on its own terms. President Biden has made an implicit call for a new policy paradigm for higher education—one that moves away from individual financing toward public investment,” said Alí R. Bustamante, deputy director, Worker Power and Economic Security.

“Addressing the student debt crisis is just the beginning. To prevent another generation of students from being forced to take on unsustainable amounts of debt, instituting free public higher education must be a priority,” said Suzanne Kahn, managing director, research and policy.