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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 15, 2021 10:53 AM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Lindsey M. Williams, Sen. Amanda M. Cappelletti, Sen. Nikil Saval
To: All Senate members
Subject: Urging Congress to Forgive Student Debt
Please join us in urging Congress to enact broad, comprehensive student debt forgiveness. This would provide much-needed relief for many people who are dealing with overwhelming economic burdens caused by the pandemic. It would also provide a much-needed boost to our economy by creating greater opportunity for a consumer-driven economic stimulus. The federal government should ensure equity of debt forgiveness by creating pathways for both federally owned loans and loans that originated from commercial financial institutions to be able to offer forgiveness to those who have student debt. 

Research shows several troubling student loan debt statistics: 
  • The student loan debt in the United States totals $1.68 trillion and grows more than 6 times faster than the nation’s economy.
  • The 42.3 million Americans with federal student loan debt owe an average of $36,520 each. 
  • First-generation college students are twice as likely to report they are behind in making student loan payments.
  • Black college students are the most likely to use federal loans, with 77.7% of Black students borrowing to pay for their higher education compared with 57.5% of white students. 
  • Black students are also harmed in the long terms; 48% of Black college graduates owe an average of 12.5% more than they borrowed four years after graduation, and 30% default during the first 12 years of repayment.

Specifically, Pennsylvania ranked third highest for student debt loans in 2019, previously being cited as the worst in 2018 for student debt. Statistics show: 

  • Pennsylvanians in aggregate have $61.5 billion in student loan debt.
  • $35,400 is the average student loan debt.
  • 1,738,300 Pennsylvanians have unpaid student loans.
Before the pandemic, we were already facing unprecedented levels of income inequality caused by stagnant wages and rising costs of living. Many young people were coming out of college facing obstacles to financial stability and mobility that previous generations never had to confront. Crippling student debt and uncertain job opportunities preclude college graduates from home ownership, starting businesses, and pursuing careers of their choosing.
As with so many other manifestations of inequality, student debt disproportionately affects communities of color. The same communities that are bearing the brunt of the pandemic in terms of both their physical health and economic health are also disproportionately affected by student debt, adding to the insurmountable systemic barriers making it impossible to get ahead in life. Research has pointed to student loan forgiveness as a tool to narrow the racial wealth gap for young families.
More people than ever are faced with impossible choices: to go to work or protect the health of their families; to pay the rent or put food on the table; to visit the doctor or keep the heat on. No one should be faced with such decisions. With rising unemployment and the economic hardship caused by the pandemic, we must do everything we can to eliminate obstacles to financial stability and to ensure people have what they need to live and to thrive. Relieving the burden of student debt payments would be a game-changer for millions of people in this country and serve as a lifeline when they most desperately need it.

Please join us and cosponsor this resolution to urge Congress to provide financial relief to borrowers and their families and help create an economic stimulus by enacting student loan debt forgiveness.

Introduced as SR48