To take her first steps into the fabled backyard of her dream school, Bianca Jones didn’t just get the grades and write a solid application; she applied for five different types of financial aid, including a jobstudy post. She took on additional jobs, but still didn’t have what she needed to pay for her education at Howard University, so she and her mother took out loans to make this possible.

In the documentary “My Yard, My Debt,” Jones reflects on the power of a historically black college and university (HBCU) experience. “Whenever I needed something…because I came here and walked out in faith…people were waiting here to help me.”

After graduating in 2016, Jones began teaching. “I love being an educator. I love my students. I like what I do.”

Jones has nearly $70,000 in student loan debt, which she pays off in monthly repayment installments of $300 based on income. Every day, his loans earn $8 in interest, adding nearly $3,000 a year to his already astronomical debt load.

Its story is the story of so many black students who seek out HBCUs for community and learning and higher education for its promise of upward mobility. In 2016, black borrowers held an average of $37,540 in student debt. Today, that figure is nearly $45,000 according to the Federal Reserve’s survey of consumer finances.

President Biden knows the student debt crisis is serious; that’s why he’s considering a small-scale cancellation and why he’s extended the pause on student loan repayments until August. But we have an opportunity to make this relief bigger for those who need it most by canceling $50,000 of student debt, which President Biden can accomplish through executive action.

In 2016, black households owned about a tenth of the wealth of white households. Without family wealth to help fund higher education, black students are at a disadvantage from the start. They end up having more loans to repay and are more likely to default during the repayment period. Predatory lenders take advantage of this disparity by channeling low-income communities and communities of color into high-risk, high-priced products. Despite making payments diligently for a decade or more, nearly 75% of black borrowers and 63% of Latino borrowers saw their student loan balances growing up. HBCUs are also facing historic divestment, increasing the cost of enrolling students.

The impact of this debt disaster cannot be underestimated. Student debt is reducing the purchasing power of 45 million borrowers and preventing millions of people from starting families, buying homes, investing in the local economy, starting businesses and returning to school. ‘school.

Cancellation supporters say $50,000 is the amount needed to erase 72% of student debt from black and Latino borrowers and ease the burden on 87% of low-income borrowers, guaranteeing economic benefits for those who do. most needed. It’s families without significant wealth who must shoulder high student loan debt, and college degrees alone aren’t enough to protect black and other borrowers of color from income and wealth disparities.

The only way to make meaningful progress against the student debt crisis and the racial wealth gap is to cancel $50,000 of student debt per borrower.

That’s why the Center for Responsible Lending and the NAACP are proud to join 58 civil and religious rights leaders, as well as student, community, and consumer advocates, in calling on President Biden to take this bold step. Student debt forgiveness of less than $50,000 is simply not enough for borrowers who have suffered the most devastating consequences of the pandemic.

We are encouraged by President Biden’s commitment to reform the civil service loan forgiveness and income-contingent repayment systems, and we are pleased that his administration recognizes the need to relieve borrowers of the burden of debt. student. We have a historic opportunity to make significant change, and now is not the time to compromise.

Although student debt affects individuals of all genders, regions and generations, we must not forget that it is also a matter of racial justice. President Biden can show the black community that he stands up for economic equity for blacks and Latinos by canceling student debt.

Jaylon Herbin is the Policy and Outreach Manager at the Center for Responsible Lending. Wisdom Cole is national director of the NAACP’s youth and college division.