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Hello, The fact that millions of Americans, particularly Black and Brown and low-income borrowers, are saddled with student loan debt is a clear sign that the promise of an equitable and quality education is broken. We need President Biden to keep his campaign promise of broad-based student debt cancellation, but this alone won't solve the student debt crisis. Congress must fix the root of this issue by addressing the cost of college to ensure no one is ever put in the same situation as today's borrowers. - Nationally, there are huge attainment gaps between racial groups and economic classes (1). - Systemic racism and factors like generational poverty, redlining, racist banking policies, educational segregation, the racial wealth gap, and the school-to-prison pipeline mean that Black students are more likely to need to borrow (2), borrow more, take longer to pay off student loans, and face default (3). - A low-income student is four times (4) less likely to earn a bachelor's degree than their wealthier peers. - Students with disabilities earn bachelor's degrees at less than half the rate of adults without disabilities (5). People with a college degree are more likely to have higher-paying and better quality jobs, better benefits at those jobs, and the ability to access resources that positively impact their health and community. A college degree can be a ticket out of the cycle of poverty and into middle-class jobs, but only if that degree is accessible in the first place. For decades, declining levels of public investment in colleges and universities have led to skyrocketing tuition which pushed the cost onto students and their families. Now, as 45 million Americans face a $1.7 trillion student debt crisis and a postsecondary degree is unaffordable and inaccessible, the promise of an equitable and quality education is broken. In reconciliation, we need two years of free community college, funding for HBCUs and MSIs, and to increase the Pell grant. Overall, I urge you to publicly support debt-free college legislation that includes the following components, which would truly transform higher education and make it accessible to everyone. These solutions must be made accessible to undocumented students, incarcerated students, and all who are traditionally excluded from most financial aid policy. - Double the maximum Pell grant: nearly 7 million low- and middle-income students rely on Pell grants to attend college. The current maximum Pell Grant covers less than one-third of the cost of attending a four-year college. Exclude for-profit institutions from eligibility (6). - Make community college and 4-years of college at public universities, MSIs, HBCUs, and Tribal Colleges free. - Create federal-state funding partnerships, which would help undo years of state disinvestment in public higher education, a factor contributing to the student debt crisis. - Cover the living expenses of students to prevent the need to take out loans and address the resource gaps that "tuition-only" legislation fails to consider. - Address racial inequities in college affordability by investing in HBCUs and MSIs and expanding financial aid eligibility to DREAMers. - Invest additional federal funds on evidence-based student success strategies to improve retention and completion rates. Find additional resources in the Center for American Progress' "6 Actions Congress Should Take on Higher Education in 2021" (7). Even passing free community college would be an incredible victory and a necessary step in the right direction. The time for transformative college affordability legislation from Congress and broad-based debt cancellation from President Biden's administration is now. Thank you for taking immediate action to both cancel student debt and make college equitably accessible in a way that strengthens the financial stability of young people and restores the American promise of higher education. Citation(s): (1) https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-postsecondary/news/2021/04/06/497888/building-college-educated-america-requires-closing-racial-gaps-attainment (2) https://edtrust.org/resource/state-federal-partnerships-may-be-the-key-to-reducing-black-student-debt/ (3) https://www.brookings.edu/research/student-loans-the-racial-wealth-divide-and-why-we-need-full-student-debt-cancellation/ (4) https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-postsecondary/reports/2018/06/20/451899/beyond-tuition/ (5) https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/education-pays-2019-full-report.pdf (6) https://www.nasfaa.org/uploads/documents/Issue_Brief_Student_Aid_Funding.pdf (7) https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-postsecondary/news/2021/02/03/495341/6-actions-congress-take-higher-education-2021/