Supreme Court Decisions Deepen Concerns over College Access: Student Debt Relief and Affirmative Action Rulings Draw Criticism.
In a recent series of rulings, the Supreme Court has dealt blows to initiatives aimed at providing mass student debt relief and promoting affirmative action in college admissions. These decisions have sparked significant discontent among Americans of color, who argue that the rulings further hinder access and inclusivity in higher education.
Just a day before, the high court rejected the consideration of race as a factor in college admissions, a practice that has been shown to help address the numerous barriers faced by Black and brown communities striving to break free from generations of poverty.
Collectively, these rulings have reinforced existing obstacles and fostered a perception that higher education in the United States is becoming an exclusive club, according to students and advocates. The sense is that the progress made in breaking down barriers is now being eroded.
Angelique Albert, who oversees the Native Forward Scholars Fund, the largest provider of scholarships for Indigenous students in the country, expressed the prevailing sentiment, stating, “It feels like the barriers are going back up for us.”
Following the Supreme Court’s decision on student debt relief, the Biden administration swiftly responded by announcing its determination to pursue alternative avenues, focusing on potential relief through the Higher Education Act. The administration’s commitment to addressing the issue signals an ongoing effort to mitigate the impact of the Court’s rulings.
Biden Unveils Plan for Student Loan Forgiveness Despite Supreme Court Setback
Following a recent defeat in the Supreme Court regarding student loan forgiveness, President Biden remains determined to provide relief to borrowers. The administration has announced a new path to address the issue, offering reassurance to those who may struggle to make payments once the pause on student loan bills concludes in October.
The Biden administration ensures that borrowers facing financial difficulties will receive a one-year reprieve on the consequences typically associated with missed payments. This reprieve, which spans from October 1, 2023, to September 30, 2024, aims to alleviate the burden on borrowers by temporarily halting the reporting of non-payment to credit agencies. However, it is important to note that interest will continue to accrue during this period.
Despite the challenges posed by the lengthy process of implementing changes through the Higher Education Act (HEA), President Biden remains resolute in his commitment to finding alternative paths towards student loan forgiveness. The administration’s determination to explore new avenues reflects an unwavering dedication to easing the financial burden on borrowers and providing relief amidst the Supreme Court setback.
Biden’s Loan Forgiveness Proposal Met with Strong Demand, Highlighting Disparities in Student Debt
President Biden’s original loan forgiveness proposal garnered significant demand, with millions of individuals applying or providing the necessary information to the federal Education Department within a short span of four weeks. Out of the applicants, more than 16 million borrowers were approved for loan forgiveness of up to $20,000, potentially benefiting up to 43 million people. For 20 million borrowers, this plan could have eliminated all their outstanding student debt, effectively bridging a significant gap in American society.
A survey conducted by Albert’s organization revealed that nearly two-thirds of the debt accumulated by Native scholars was attributed to student loans, highlighting the disproportionate impact on this community. Furthermore, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, young Black women carry the highest average loan balance among all borrowers at $11,000 and are more likely to have student debt. Overall, women tend to hold more debt than men, but higher incomes for men allow them to pay off their debt more quickly, exacerbating gender and racial disparities in student debt over time.
The soaring costs of higher education have contributed to a decline in Black college and university enrollment. Between 2010 and 2020, enrollment dropped by 22%, representing over 650,000 students. Subsequently, data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center indicates an additional 7% decline since then.
The Supreme Court’s rulings on loan forgiveness and affirmative action have drawn criticism for their failure to acknowledge the historical exclusion and racial disparities faced by minority communities. According to Stella Flores, an associate professor at the University of Texas, Austin, the court’s majority opinions reflect a distorted understanding of the nation’s reality and perpetuate the protection of privilege and systemic inequalities.
The impact of student debt is felt deeply, with individuals like Maggie Bell, a graduate burdened with $30,000 in loans, expressing the unfortunate consequences, particularly for Black borrowers, including Black women. The need for addressing these issues remains crucial as the cost of education continues to rise, making higher education less accessible and exacerbating existing inequalities in society.
Concerns Mount for Students of Color as Ban on Race-Conscious Admissions Looms
Isaac Herrera, a junior at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Los Angeles, remains uncertain about his future college choices. However, as a person of color, he harbors concerns regarding the potential repercussions of a widespread ban on race-conscious admissions. Herrera emphasizes the importance of institutions promoting diversity and implementing measures that support various groups, expressing disappointment at the prospect of such a ban.
In Athens, Georgia, Kairos Richardson, a 23-year-old, echoes this sentiment, describing the news as disheartening. Richardson was compelled to drop out of college due to the mounting student loan debt of $8,000 he accumulated during his time studying architecture at Kennesaw State University. Despite working at FedEx, his income rendered him ineligible for a Pell Grant, forcing him to juggle work and studies. Overwhelmed by the financial burden of both tuition and housing expenses, Richardson prioritized living costs, preventing his return to college.
Richardson aspires to pursue studies in urban design and planning, with a goal of revitalizing disenfranchised communities of Black and Latino individuals. However, he acknowledges that achieving this dream is unlikely without assistance in paying off his existing student loan and securing additional grants to finance his education.
Concerns Rise for Racial Diversity as Affirmative Action Faces Uncertainty
Reyna Patel, a 20-year-old student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, attributes her admission to the university, known for its selectivity, partially to affirmative action. As an Indian American, she worries that the recent decision by the Supreme Court may result in a decline in racial diversity at UNC, which, despite having practiced affirmative action in the past, remains predominantly white.
Expressing her concerns, Patel emphasizes the importance of having students of color and minority backgrounds on campus. She believes that their unique perspectives and experiences are essential for finding innovative and sustainable solutions to various societal issues. Patel remains hopeful that the cultural and racial campus groups that have supported affirmative action in recent years will continue their efforts to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students of color.