By Morgan Craven, J.D.• Learning Goes On • September 2, 2022 •Morgan Craven photo

Even as the cost of a college education increased dramatically over the past several decades, federal financial support for students – particularly those from families with limited wealth and income – failed to keep up. Students leaving institutions of higher education (some without completing their degrees) are entering the work-world saddled with debt. Analyses show that student debt contributes to the racial wealth gap, as Black borrowers are more likely to take on and hold educational debt. Additionally, the cost of post-secondary opportunities prevents many young people from enrolling in and completing college.

This month, the Biden Administration announced it would take action to address the student debt crisis by:

  • Forgiving $20,000 of student loan debt for Pell grant recipients and $10,000 for non-Pell borrowers who make less than $125,000 (or less than $250,00 as a married couple);
  • Extending the pause on student loan repayments that began during the COVID-19 pandemic through December 31, 2022;
  • Proposing changes to minimum monthly loan payments for borrowers with limited incomes;
  • Working to make permanent improvements to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for professionals that work in the non-profit and public sectors; and
  • Seeking to increase Pell grants and make community college free.

The federal emergency extension, loan forgiveness and other actions will certainly help some who have educational debt and those who want to attend college. Still, much more can be done to ensure fair college access for all.

In addition to tackling higher education affordability, we must ensure early childhood and K-12 schools are preparing all students to access and succeed in college through rigorous coursework, individualized college counseling supports, and welcoming and culturally-sustaining curriculum and instruction.

We must also tackle the deep economic inequities that contribute to poorly- and inequitably-funded schools. These economic inequities – perpetuated by policies that promoted housing segregation, restricted access to jobs, and limited investments in communities of color – result in differences in access to educational opportunities. These differences are particularly stark for students of color and students from families with limited economic means – the very same students disproportionately impacted by the student debt crisis. For more information, please see our newest brief: How Texas Schools are Funded, and Why That Matters to Collective Success.

Learn more about IDRA’s work to ensure college access and success and our research and policy positions around fair school funding.

Please join us as we fight to ensure excellent educational opportunities for students across the U.S. South.

[©2022, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2, 2022, edition of Learning Goes On by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]