Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took to Fox News today to slam recent proposals to cancel student loans and enact debt-free college.
DeVos, reiterating comments she made yesterday during her remarks at a financial aid conference, said, “Nothing is free…. What is being suggested with free college is essentially a government takeover of higher education,” which would result in a “socialist system.” Without citing any evidence, DeVos argued that debt-free college would result in a “rationing” of higher education.
Turning to proposals to enact broad student loan forgiveness, DeVos argued that a majority of Americans do not pursue a four-year college degree. Noting again that “nothing is free,” she went on to ask, “Why should any of [the people who did not go to college] be asked to subsidize those who go to college?” DeVos argued that forgiving student loan debt would also be unfair to those who have “faithfully repaid” their student loans and had “sought out value” for their education.
A diverse array of progressive lawmakers, consumer rights advocates, and civil rights organizations have called on Congress and President-elect Biden to enact widespread student loan forgiveness. The broad coalition argues that cancelling student loan debt will provide a much-needed economic stimulus, and will free up resources for millions of people to afford their rent, pay for food and necessities, and participate in the consumer economy.
“Widespread student debt cancellation is needed on Day One of the Biden Administration,” said Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, in an earlier statement. “Student loan borrowers are drowning in debt caused by a system that has been inequitable and broken for decades… Student debt cancellation is urgently needed now as American families struggle to stay financially afloat through the economic and public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”
The coalition of organizations also contends that student debt cancellation is not only necessary to address the ongoing economic crisis, but also to tackle ongoing racial disparities that have only worsened during the pandemic.
“The health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have not only upended our economy and sent millions into unemployment, but shined a bright light on the massive racial disparities among student loan borrowers. Black borrowers hold double the amount of debt as white borrowers four years after graduation. It is no surprise, then, that Black borrowers default on their loans at double the rate as white borrowers,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for Civil Justice and Consumer Rights at Public Citizen, in November. “Cancelling student debt would be a massive economic stimulus to the economy and start to right the undeniable systemic inequalities in American society that make it hard for borrowers of color to climb the economic ladder.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other advocates have called for $50,000 in broad student debt cancellation. Biden, on the other hand, has focused on a smaller figure of $10,000. Loan forgiveness of just $10,000 would eliminate all student loan debt for an estimated 16.3 million borrowers, or 36 percent of all borrowers, and reduce by half the loan balances for another 9.3 million (an additional 20 percent of all borrowers).
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