HBCU students win again. Over 2,700 former students of Morehouse College had their debts canceled by the Debt Collective on Monday, totaling nearly $10 million in student debt.
Thousands of accounts from the fall 2022 semester and years prior owed $9.7 million to the historically Black college. Morehouse College transferred the entire balance in collections to the Collective and its sister organization, the Rolling Jubilee Fund, after which they canceled the debts as a “no-strings-attached gift.”
“Now, thousands of Black men can receive their diplomas, access their transcript, pursue further education, and move on with their lives,” reads a statement from Morehouse.
The Debt Collective is “the nation’s first debtors’ union,” they proclaim on their website. They are organizing to have debts canceled and abolished.
“Our nation is defaulting on the promise of education when we burden communities, especially Black HBCU graduates, with crushing amounts of student debt,” said Braxton Brewington, spokesperson for the Debt Collective, in a statement. “This nearly $10M of student debt cancellation will put thousands of Black folks in a better position to be able to save for retirement, purchase a home or start a small business.”
According to the Legal Defense Fund, in 2019, 86% of Black students used student loans to pay for their education, with an average of $39,500 taken out. And in 2022, 57% of Black student loan borrowers had at least $25,000 of debt from their education, the Federal Reserve found.
This is not the Collective’s first time aiding Black students and graduates. In May 2022, the group purchased $1.7 million of unpaid student debt for 462 women who attended Bennett College, a women’s HBCU. Some of the bills went as far back as 1996, Insider reported.
While some have reason to rejoice, the debts forgiven were not federal loans, the group noted in a post, it was money owed directly to Morehouse. The Collective said they were “doing their part” because President Joe Biden had not held up his end of the deal.
During his 2020 campaign, Biden proposed he would forgive “all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000.” This benefit would also apply to federal loans for private HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions.
In June, the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s broad forgiveness plan that would have fulfilled this campaign promise and removed over $400 billion in federal student loans. Since the decision, interest and loan payments have restarted, and the administration rolled out the Saving on an Affordable Education (SAVE) plan, formerly known as the Revised Pay as You Earn income-driven repayment plan.
On Oct. 4, the administration announced they had forgiven over $127 billion for an estimated 3.6 million borrowers enrolled in Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, who have disabilities, or were misled by their school.
President Biden is not giving up on achieving forgiveness. The administration and Department of Education are moving forward with a new path to debt relief for student loan borrowers, including policy considerations, through the Higher Education Act of 1965.
In its statement, Morehouse College hinted at these recent moves and Biden’s promises.
“The fact that a small group of activists can eliminate $10 million in a split second is a reminder of the amazing power the executive branch has to eliminate the crushing weight of student loans for the public writ large.”
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