US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Leah Millis | Reuters
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., wearing a mask that read “Cancel Student Debt,” on Wednesday called on the labor movement to join him in his fight for President Joe Biden writes off $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.
During the roundtable with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and labor leaders including Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Schumer said there was a false narrative about the recipients of the cancellation of student debt.
“Let’s dispel a terrible myth here: This isn’t a problem about the rich or the Ivy League,” Schumer said. “All these big cats and people who never want to see help for the working people and the poor are making up these myths.
“It affects working-class people,” he added.
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The senator was addressing the arguments made by those who oppose the cancellation of student debt on the grounds that college graduates are privileged because of their education and higher incomes.
Schumer also appeared to address President Biden directly, who has repeatedly framed student debt forgiveness as a gift to the wealthy.
In a 2021 interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks, Biden said “The idea that you go to Penn and pay a total of $70,000 a year and the public should pay for it? I disagree.”
These comments echoed the first ones he made at a CNN town hall, where he said it made no sense to cancel loans “for people who went to Harvard, Yale and Penn.”
The fact that Biden brought up Ivy League schools when asked about forgiveness has caused frustration among borrowers and advocates, who say it’s a myth that people in debt — in especially those who suffer from it – have a prestigious education behind them.
Indeed, only 0.3% of federal student borrowers have attended Ivy League colleges, according to estimates provided to CNBC by higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz. By far the largest share of borrowers – 49% – came from public colleges.
Another quarter of borrowers attended for-profit schools, which have been criticized for misleading students about curriculum and career outcomes, as well as preying on veterans and people of color. Almost half of those who take out student loans at these schools end up defaulting.
More recently, the White House reportedly leaned toward a $10,000-per-borrower cancellation plan, but it’s under pressure to go further.
The NAACP explained how $10,000 would be insufficient relief for black student borrowers, who have an average balance above $50,000 a few years after graduation.
Wisdom Cole, national director of the NAACP’s youth and college division, recently posted on Twitter that nixing just $10,000 would be “a slap in the face.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is also grappling with the fact that the idea of student debt forgiveness infuriates many Americans, including those who never borrowed for college or went to college. university. Some Republicans said they would try to block an attempt by the president to cancel the debt.
On Wednesday, Schumer called on the labor movement to make student debt forgiveness an issue that resonates “across America.”
“We’ve met President Biden many times, his mind is open to that,” Schumer told union leaders. “Let’s fight and persist until we succeed in canceling $50,000 in student debt for America.”