Student debt reduction ‘a step that is grounded in economic, social and racial justice’

Student debt reduction ‘a step that is grounded in economic, social and racial justice’

The following statement was issued today by MTA President Max Page:

The Biden administration took a step today toward our long-held vision of debt-free higher education by canceling a portion of the staggering student debt burden in our country.

This is a step that is grounded in economic, social and racial justice.

The executive order to cancel $10,000 in federal student debt held by those making up to $125,000 a year and an additional $10,000 in debt for those eligible for Pell Grants acknowledges the injustices that plague our higher education system — including our public colleges and universities.

But we also must acknowledge that this measure gets us only part of the way toward what all students need and deserve.

The MTA will continue to fight for debt-free public higher education in Massachusetts. Doing so is good for our Commonwealth, where we see every day how the crushing amounts of debt taken on by students attending public colleges and universities inhibit their ability to grow their lives and invest in the state’s economy.

It is also important to recognize that the debt burden, here and in other states, has fallen more heavily on women and students of color — perpetuating systemic inequities. We cannot achieve our goals for racial and economic justice without providing access to high-quality, debt-free public higher education for all.

A recent report finds that there was nearly $32 billion in outstanding student debt dragging down the economy in our state. In Massachusetts, 63 percent of the students attending public colleges and universities are taking on debt.

The debt levels have been particularly painful for those seeking the degrees and training needed to become educators. This contributes to educator shortages in some of our communities and stands in the way of the MTA’s goal of increasing the number of educators of color in our public schools and colleges.

Today’s partial debt cancellation acknowledges the importance of removing barriers nationwide to higher education and the necessity of ensuring that our students — and our communities — reap the benefits of higher education when they complete their programs.

President Biden’s action helps address the existing debt burden. Now we must keep moving toward the debt-free public higher education future our students and families deserve. In November, Massachusetts voters will have a chance to secure further funds to help achieve this goal. We strongly urge voters to pass Question 1 on the November ballot — the Fair Share Amendment — for the future of our students and our state.