Most Black Voters Support Eliminating Student Loan Debt, New Poll Finds
Black voters want student debt eradicated completely. And without substantive action, a large chunk of black voters could consider staying at home in the next election, according to a new poll.
According to a national poll shared exclusively with NBC News, 67% of registered black voters strongly support eliminating student loan debt. Overall, 84% are in favor of a total or partial elimination of student debt in the survey in the Global Color Change Strategy Group, a national civil rights organization. Fifty-six percent of black voters took on debt to pay for college.
Racial disparity in student loan debt remains prevalent for blacks, based on research published in November 2019 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Researchers found that residents of predominantly black neighborhoods were more likely to pay for their college education by borrowing, with 23% of black residents having taken out student loans. However, this figure drops to 17% among residents of predominantly Latin American neighborhoods and 14% in predominantly white areas.
“Black voters who were responsible for providing not only a majority in the Senate, but [also] a Biden-Harris administration… overwhelmingly wants to see sweeping reform in terms of eliminating student loans, ”said Arisha Hatch, vice president and head of campaigns at Color Of Change.
A group of Democratic lawmakers – including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., And Representatives Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Alma Adams, DN.C. , Mondaire Jones, DN.Y., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. – proposed to write off $ 50,000 in student loan debt with no tax liability for borrowers.
At a press conference on February 4, Pressley said that a non-binding resolution on the issue currently has 50 House co-sponsors and broad support from hundreds of political organizations. According to a press release published the same day by Warren, at least 14 senators have joined the resolution.
Warren said the movement would be “the single most effective economic stimulus available through executive action, would help reduce the racial wealth gap” and would ease a burden that has become even heavier on tens of millions of families as a result of the pandemic.
In response, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that President Joe Biden “continue to support the cancellation of $ 10,000 of federal student loan debt per person in response to the Covid crisis,” and that any action must come from Congress, although he has considered l partial cancellation of student loans through executive action.
Meanwhile, 40 percent of the 900 registered voters nationwide polled between Jan.6 and Jan.10 said they were unwilling to vote for candidates who oppose the elimination of student debt. .
“I feel like someone who would disagree with me on this, and still want my vote, is fundamentally not with me in this fight for racial justice,” said Hadiyah Daché, 34 years old, who runs a small skin care business in Oakland, California. . The former student of Clark-Atlanta University, a historically black institution, currently has over $ 32,000 in student loan debt and struggled to find well-paying jobs when she graduated hard. of the Great Recession.
“Even with the crumbs we receive, we are still able to persevere. But that’s the one thing that’s keeping a lot of us from really getting ahead financially, ”Daché said. She noted that student loans have made it more difficult for blacks to lift their families out of poverty or invest in improving their communities. According to a 2018 analysis by the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, households headed by white adults between the ages of 25 and 40 have 12 times more wealth than their black peers. Eliminating student debt, their report said, would reduce the spread by more than half of the current rate.
Black voters hold higher education higher than the general public, according to the survey results, “given the perception that this is a ladder to socio-economic success and that families and black households are less likely to inherit wealth. But the impressions do not largely match the results for blacks, who were exploited or excluded from many economic programs and opportunities due to the lingering impact of slavery, the Jim Crow era, redlining, predatory lending and banking discrimination.
Without student loan debt, 73% of black voters polled said they would save for retirement, and about half said they would live in another neighborhood or buy a house instead of renting it.
Terry Hardaway, 35, closed his first home last week, a move he postponed for six years. Hardaway, who is now employed in Columbus, Ohio, as a financial reporting consultant, was paying an average of $ 350 each month for his student loans and was facing complications in the mortgage selection process due to his debt ratio. /returned. To ease the path to homeownership, he recently arranged a payment of $ 20,000 for the remainder of his total debt of nearly $ 40,000 on loan from a college and graduate program. that he hasn’t finished yet.
“I think what needs to be regulated is the price of higher education,” Hardaway said. “When my mom went to college and was able to graduate with just $ 1,000 in student loans?” It’s not really possible now. You can’t take a part-time job in the summer to pay for your education, which was the norm.
Affordability issues with student loan debt exacerbate black women, who not only represent one of the most engaged and numerous voting groups, but also bear the brunt of the gender wage gap. Estimates have shown that black women earn 0.62 cents on the dollar when they compared alongside their white male counterparts. Nearly 9 in 10 black women in the poll support at least partial cancellation of student loan debt, with 50% in favor of total elimination.
Iesha Ison, 32, works in Pensacola, Florida as an adoption coordinator for a child welfare organization. After graduating from Jackson State University with a master’s degree in education, his debt load climbed to over $ 160,000. Combined with the high rents in her area, the loan repayment bills force her to live from paycheck to paycheck while raising a family.
“I have colleagues who are struggling with student debt, because in the field where we work, you do not earn enough to pay what [student loan lenders] ask, ”Ison said. “Student loan debt is what really stood out to me in this election because it hampered the American dream.” She added that setting aside $ 50,000 would be a “drop in the bucket” for her.
Temeeka Glass, 27, said her parents were willing to take out the vast majority of loans for her tuition at Columbia College Chicago. Although she was almost halfway through paying him back, Glass said the bills affected her financial decisions.
“There was a period when I sent papers to stop payments for six months, so when I finally got my own apartment I had to open a credit card so I could hire a business. move “and pay other related expenses, said Glass, who supports the eradication of student loans. “I’m always like, ‘Oh, if I spend that much money, what if something happens and I can’t pay my loan off next month?’
Overall, the poll results also show that black voters view the elimination of student debt as part of a set of policies that tackle systemic racism and economic inequality. Among the many proposals mentioned to respondents, more than half of black voters said they would never vote for candidates who oppose a minimum wage increase of $ 15 an hour and the end of the mass incarceration for minor, non-violent drug offenses. In addition, 49 percent expressed the same view for candidates who do not support the extension of health insurance to all citizens.
“The elimination of student loan debt is incredibly linked to the eradication of racial disparities in wealth,” Hatch said. “It is impossible to talk about an economic justice program that does not include a conversation about how black people in this country are in debt in a way that forces them not to achieve their dreams or to stay in situations. discriminatory work. ”