Our statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down student debt cancellation

Jun 30, 2023 | In the News, Updates

Conservative justices on the Supreme Court of the United States have ruled against President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers.

This was not a decision made in the best interest of student borrowers. We are infuriated that SCOTUS did not stand by the 43 million students overcome with a total of $1.8 trillion in student debt across this country.

Betsy Centeno, an SF Rising student member and graduate of SF State said, “I’ve been waiting 2 years for President Biden to fulfill the promise he has guaranteed for me and other students suffering from debt. Hearing this news that SCOTUS hammered down on the wrong side of justice is beyond devastating. It will force me to get another job and take out more loans to keep up with the loan repayments that I wasn’t expecting to pay, so I can afford to go to grad school. At the rate of compounding interest, the racial wealth gap, and back-pay on debt I will be paying off my $20,000+ debt for the rest of my life.”

SF Rising has worked tirelessly to organize peers and call on elected officials to cancel student debt over the past few years. Through a student survey of 299 participants conducted in 2021 at SFSU, CCSF, and other Bay Area colleges we found out that 90% of students were struggling with debt and identified as BIPOC. In the Bay Area alone, students are burdened with 26.6 billion dollars of debt collectively. That’s why we’ve been organizing students across the city, activating them in our fight to build support for student debt cancellation.

Our student members were holding their breaths after hearing the news that President Biden had followed through on his promise to cancel student debt, but today, that excitement of knowing that at any moment there could be relief has turned into fear for their futures.

After hearing the Supreme Court ruling on the issue, our Lead Student Organizer, Alex Lalama, who has been leading SF Rising’s student debt cancellation work said, “Cancelling $10-20k was never enough for our students and community struggling against student debt but it was a start for so many who were hoping to see a different future for themselves, and yet, that start was cut short today. The history of this country once stood on free college, and now we have forgotten our roots of education being a human right. No one deserves this financial violence ripping us from a better future for seeking higher education.

Instead, because of today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, we now have 43 million borrowers holding $1.8 trillion in debt – with Black and Latine students holding a disproportionate amount of that debt – already suffering from a racist and elitist system that maintains the racial wealth gap, who will now fall further behind. Meanwhile, people in power who oppose student debt cancellation had no problem with big corporations receiving debt relief. Silicon Bank was recently bailed out with $25 billion available with the approval of the Treasury Secretary.

Diamund, an SF Rising Student Organizer said, “Why is it acceptable for politicians to give millions of dollars in aid to massive corporations like Ruth’s Chris, Shake Shack, Exxon, Boeing, and Marriott, but not for students who are struggling to pay for a college degree?”

On September 1st, when student loan repayments resume, many student borrowers across the nation will worry about how they will be able to afford paying off those debts. Student member, Cyvanah Byrd-Eley, struggles with debt after recently accomplishing her dreams of successfully attaining a Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of San Francisco. She shared, “They are shutting down dreams that came to be through the anticipation of a weight being lifted off of many students’ shoulders. For many of us students, debt is the one thing that prevents us from chasing our dreams after college. Instead of going after our passions, we must work any job we can just to make those payments on time.” Now that we’ve experienced a worldwide pandemic and an economic downturn, these factors will greatly exacerbate disparities in repayment for our working-class communities and communities of color, forcing many to choose between paying off their debts or putting food on the table.

We will not stand by and watch the increasing threat to education justice take over our legislature and judicial system and make our higher education system inaccessible to marginalized students. We are demanding that elected officials make decisions in the best interest of our communities who are most negatively impacted by each bad choice they make. San Francisco Rising is committed to organizing students so every student has the opportunity to access free education without the burden of debt or worry of tuition. We couldn’t be more fired up to keep organizing alongside students for the future we all deserve!

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