Now that the government has passed student loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 for some borrowers, one progressive political group is spending some of its own money to tout the policy to Black voters.
The group, Building Back Together, is launching what he called a six-figure digital ad buy that ties student debt relief to the economic pain experienced by many Black college graduates. Their 30-second spot begins with the broad outlines of the plan laid out last week by Biden: that borrowers of federal student loans can have as much as $20,000 forgiven if they earn $125,000 or less and are Pell Grant recipients, and that other federal borrowers can have up to $10,000 relieved.
But the ad quickly pivots to the program’s projected impact on Black borrowers, who account for a significant percentage of federal student loan debt and who on average carry more debt than students of other races.
“This means one in four Black borrowers will see their debt completely eliminated. And the average Black borrower will see their debt cut nearly in half,” the ad’s voiceover reads. “President Biden is saving us money so we can afford to pursue our dreams.”
While student loan debt is a widespread problem, it’s one that Black students and graduates feel more acutely. Black borrowers on average carry $52,000 in student loan debt, $25,000 more than white graduates on average, according to the Education Data Initiative.
While the ad speaks directly to the president’s movement on student loan forgiveness, which was enacted without legislation from Congress, the ad is an indirect means of supporting Democrats running in November’s midterm elections. Biden isn’t on the ballot, but his student debt forgiveness plan was a central part of an agenda he specifically laid out as a candidate in 2020 to appeal to a coalition of multiracial, progressive voters. That agenda also included his so-called Build Back Better spending plan for safety net programs and infrastructure, a drastically-reduced version of which was passed as the Inflation Reduction Act on August 16.
For Democrats, keeping control of Congress in the midterms is key to any hopes of getting more of that agenda passed.
In an interview with The Root last week, former Atlanta Mayor and current Biden Administration Senior Advisor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that Biden was “very familiar with the burdens carried by Black and brown students across America,” and rejected the idea pushed by many progressives that $20,000 in debt relief for individual students wasn’t enough. “What I would say to people who’ve said it’s not enough is it’s more debt relief than you had yesterday,” Bottoms said. “$10,000 in debt cancellation is a lot. $20,000 in debt cancellation is a lot.”