WASHINGTON —Following news of the Biden Administration’s action to student loan debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 per year, the National Education Association, America’s largest labor union, provided the following reaction from NEA President Becky Pringle:
“No matter what we look like, where we live, or what’s in our bank accounts, we should be all able to pursue our dreams at an affordable college or university, but that should not preclude us from being able to make ends meet and provide for our families,” Pringle said. “America’s educators thank President Biden for keeping his campaign promise and taking this bold, life-changing action on behalf of the 48 million student borrowers in America. The additional relief for Pell Grant recipients ensures equity, and that the borrowers with the greatest need are not left behind. This will have a positive impact on America's educators and the students they serve. This is an encouraging step toward achieving the goal of broad student loan cancelation of at least $50,000 per borrower without means testing. We look forward to working with the White House and borrowers to make broader debt cancelation a reality, and extending the waiver that has made Public Service Loan Forgiveness available to millions of educators and other public service workers.”
A year ago, NEA released a report on educators working in pre-K–12 and higher education institutions regarding student loan debt. It is the first research of its kind with new insights into the physical, mental and financial health of educators. In line with research on student loan debt within the general population, the study found that student loans play a significant role in the financial lives of many educators and have disproportionate impacts on specific subgroups.
Important findings within the report include:
- About three-fifths (59%) of educators with unpaid loans reported that the debt had a bearing on their ability to build up their emergency savings and four in 10 said that paying off their student loans impacted their mental, emotional, and/or physical well-being.
- Black educators took on significantly more debt than other racial/ethnic groups, with an average initial total of $68,300 among those who took out loans, compared to $54,300 for White educators and $56,400 for Latin(o/a/x), Hispanic, and Chican(o/a/x) educators. Sixteen percent of Black educators who used student loans borrowed $105,000 or more compared to 11 percent of White educators.
- Black educators with unpaid student loans also had the highest average current debt at $71,600, over $13,000 more than White educators and $20,000 more than Latin(o/a/x), Hispanic, and Chican(o/a/x) educators. This high average is due in part to nearly one in five Black educators with unpaid debt carrying a current balance of at least $105,000.
- Over a quarter of educators ages 61 and up who took out student loans still have a balance, and within that group, more than a third have $45,000 or more left to pay off.
- Two-thirds of educators ages 61 and up with unpaid student loans report that paying down their debt has affected their ability to save for retirement. Even half of the youngest educators— those ages 18–35—said that this was a predicament for them.
NEA is making principals and experts on student debt available for interview regarding this report. Requests can be sent to Richard Allen Smith, NEA Communications, at [email protected].