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Press Release

NEA President: Court Decisions Halting Student Debt Cancellation are 'Nonsensical'

America’s largest labor union calls on Biden to extend payment pause, will continue advocacy
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Published: November 17, 2022

WASHINGTON — National Education Association president Becky Pringle provided the following reaction to recent court orders that have paused President Biden’s student debt relief program pending further action:

“No matter what we look like or where we live, no one should face the burden of overwhelming debt in order to get an education. The Biden Administration’s life-changing student debt relief program provided a lifeline to millions of Americans by canceling their student debt, making it easier to pursue their dreams while also providing for their families,” said Pringle. “But now, at the request of a small group of Republican governors and right-wing organizations, Trump-appointed judges on two federal courts have contorted the law to put that relief on hold, leaving the 26 million Americans who have applied, and 16 million who have already been approved, in limbo and uncertainty. We vehemently disagree with these nonsensical decisions and look forward to continuing the advocacy that made this program a reality, helping educators obtain relief when the program resumes.  Until the issue is resolved, it is imperative that the Biden Administration and Department of Education extend the payment pause on student debt.”

NEA also launched a student debt update tool. All who are interested can text STUDENTDEBT to 48744 to receive updates when news breaks on the student debt relief program. 

Last year, 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. Requests can be sent to Richard Allen Smith, NEA Communications, at [email protected].

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.