American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after the White House announced it would extend the student loan payment pause an additional three months:
“Postponing student loan payments another 90 days is the right move to help struggling borrowers. The COVID variants have left us all with a lot of stress and uncertainty, and extending a break in payments is a big win for Americans who continue to face an affordability crisis daily as they grapple with the pandemic, inflation and the associated stress and exhaustion. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses and public employees we represent—and the hundreds and thousands of students they serve who are struggling with onerous student debt—we thank President Biden and Vice President Harris for this breathing room.
“These postponements make clear that long-term debt cancellation of up to $50,000 would be a critical step for every American who’s saddled with a piece of our country’s $1.7 trillion debt burden, particularly in light of current economic realities. Student loan debt has increased an average of 18 percent for baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials, who carry more debt than any other generation.
“For communities of color—especially Black families—debt cancellation would be an economic game-changer and would go a long way toward fixing the racial wealth gap in this country. Nearly 85 percent of Black bachelor's degree recipients carry student debt, compared with 69 percent of their white counterparts; and around 38 percent of Black students who entered college in 2004 had defaulted on their student loans within 12 years—a rate three times higher than white borrowers.
“Our communities and our economy needed today’s extension of the payment pause. The administration did heroic work to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and now they must take the next step to fully address the larger student debt crisis.”