The following is a slightly edited transcript of remarks made by Cody Hounanian during a News week podcast debate on student debt cancellation. You can listen to the podcast here:
I think the main reason we need blanket student debt cancellation is that this is a crisis, and that’s exactly what we call it. When you have something as big as a weight of $ 1.7 trillion on Americans’ backs, they cannot participate fully in the economy. The American dream is out of reach. There is no dressing to solve this problem. So we really need to wipe the slate clean. All the damage done over decades of terrible policies has left families across countries in debt. Large-scale debt cancellation is therefore the bold solution that can wipe the slate clean. And of course, this goes beyond simple individual services. The whole economy, all of us in America, will benefit if we can truly solve this crisis with a bold solution.
I think the racial fairness element of this debate cannot be ignored. There’s actually a name for this new reluctance to pay for government degrees now that college is accessible to more people of color, and it’s called “predatory inclusion.” And what’s the idea, that at a time when black and brown Americans finally have access to higher education – finally have access to that stepping stone that should bring them into the middle class and beyond – we’ve grown the cost of the university. We have burdened them with student debt and taken away from many of these people all the benefits of that higher education. So this student debt crisis couldn’t come at a worse time for the people who need it most and for the people who have historically been excluded from education.
I just want to touch on one other thing mentioned [in the podcast intro], the income element, and hopefully we’ll cover that part in today’s discussion. But incomes don’t go to the heart of this crisis for black and brown Americans. The big problem is wealth. They don’t have the generational wealth to carry the burden of student debt they carry.
Cody Hounanian is Executive Director of the Student Debt Crisis Center.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.