Essex County Commissioners urge federal authorities to write off student loan debt

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ – Newark. Chicago. Boston. Philadelphia Cream. And now, Essex County. Here are some of the local governments that have joined the campaign to cancel student debt in the United States

Earlier this week, the Essex County Council of Commissioners passed a symbolic resolution calling on the federal government to “write off all student loan debts.” The resolution – introduced by Presidential Commissioner Wayne Richardson – also urges the US government to begin providing higher education as a public good.

According to county commissioners, this is a local problem as well as a national one.

“Student loan debt is a major factor pushing families deeper into poverty and further worsening the poverty rate in Essex County and across the country,” the commissioners said in a joint statement. .

Nicole Lancaster, an early childhood education teacher in Newark and a member of NJ Communities United, is among many residents who have struggled to repay their student loans.

“I struggled for years to provide for my family’s basic needs while managing student debt, and now my student debt limits my children’s educational opportunities,” Lancaster said. “Without action now, our children will either give up college altogether or be forced into mountains of unmanageable debt.”

The Council of Commissioners issued the following statement on what inspired the resolution:

“According to the Federal Reserve, in the second quarter of 2021, Americans owed a surprising $ 1.73 trillion in student loans. Debt is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes, increased stress, depression and early mortality.Under the Higher Education Act of 1965, the President of the United States and the Secretary of Education have the authority to write off all federal student loan debts. ‘Debt cancellation and the elimination of future debt resulting from loans made to pursue higher education represent a huge economic opportunity for Essex County. to increase spending in our local community, support the upward mobility of individuals and provide an essential stimulus during the pandemic. ”

Council members continued:

“New Jersey, in particular, is one of the top five student debtor states in the country, with an average graduate acquiring $ 34,387 in loans. New Jersey also has the third highest tuition cost for full-time students in the state at $ 26,070 per year. . Additionally, student loans have disproportionately affected communities of color. The cost of public universities in New Jersey is more than half of the typical income of black and Latin American families statewide. Even after factoring in financial aid, the average price of New Jersey school attendance – four-year public schools makes up about one-third of household income for black and Latino / Latino families, compared to just 17 percent. for white families across the state.Finally, 21 percent of student loan holders in black communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities in Essex County are in default, compared to just four percent of student loan holders in the county’s white communities.These figures illustrate how the current hi New Jersey education system creates extreme financial burdens on students with the greatest financial need and deepens the racial wealth gap in the State. “

Richardson praised the board’s support for the resolution, saying he believes “the time has come” to call on the federal government to help communities that have traditionally been victims of excessive debt – including the burden of paying for college.

“Student debt is a national crisis that affects poor and working-class youth across the country, but disproportionately affects black and brown youth, who have more loans and are less likely to get good jobs. paid, ”said Richardson.

“It is up to the federal government, in one way or another, to ease this burden and give this generation of young adults a chance to experience financial security,” he added.

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