Posted on January 31, 2024

Canceling Student Loan Debt for Black Borrowers Is a Form of Reparations, Says the NAACP

Chanelle Chandler, Yahoo, January 24, 2024

The Biden administration on Jan. 19 announced that nearly $5 billion in student loan debt would be wiped out for more than 70,000 borrowers, many of them teachers, social workers and others who qualify for income-driven repayment plans.

But a day earlier, 67 organizations, including the NAACP, penned a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging President Biden to “keep his promise” and cancel debt for millions of student loan borrowers “experiencing hardship,” including for borrowers of color.

“Failing to finalize a proposal to provide relief for borrowers experiencing hardship would result in millions of borrowers — including most recent graduates, many low-income borrowers, borrowers of color, and borrowers with disabilities — being left out of the necessary debt relief. This cannot be an option,” the letter said.


Support for the Black reparations movement has made progress in states including Illinois, New York and California to address the intergenerational repercussions of slavery. The NAACP told Yahoo News that canceling student debt for Black borrowers can be one of multiple tiers of compensating Black Americans “to rectify historic economic injustices” and to bridge the systemic racial wealth gap to gain access to generational wealth in America.

“Reparations can take the form of various economic initiatives, such as canceling student debt, providing access to capital for revitalization in historically redlined communities, offering tax benefits for Black businesses, and providing fiscal payments tied to slavery in America,” Keisha Deonarine, the NAACP’s director of opportunity, race and justice, said.


According to the Education Data Initiative — an organization that collects data on the U.S. education system — Black student borrowers owe an average of $25,000 more in student loan debt when they graduate than their white counterparts.


Over half of Black student borrowers report that their net worth is less than the amount of their student loan debt, according to the Education Data Initiative, ultimately creating financial obstacles that can delay life goals and access to saving and investment opportunities like buying a home and affording college to pursue other educational goals.


Christina Laster, a council practitioner for the Hoover Education Success Initiative — a think tank established to improve the educational landscape for children — told Yahoo News that while she is an advocate for reparations, she wants to make sure that civil rights organizations have a clear and balanced approach to compensating for “harm and injury.”


Lester said that while Biden has done all that he could within his parameters, activists — especially the youth voting bloc — should push the Congressional Black Caucus to be a vehicle to drive this kind of change, as well as to take a broader look into the U.S. education system to create structural changes.

“They have to envision their own liberation,” Laster said. “We need to find a way to infuse what they’re saying in our demand because they are the rising bloc of powerful voices and voters. I do believe that they can influence Black American outcomes as a voting bloc. The youth have always been at the forefront of a revolution.”