AAMA’s Response to SCOTUS Striking Down Student Debt Forgiveness Plan

Published on June 30, 2023

(Washington, D.C.) – The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) condemns the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority for their unjust, unfair, and unreasonable decision to dismantle President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. Make no mistake, between the decision to bar affirmative action and strike down student debt forgiveness, this Supreme Court majority has signaled in no uncertain terms that the path to socioeconomic mobility and academic opportunity – once known as the American Dream – is now far more treacherous for Black and working-class people.

Further, this decision significantly threatens our sacred system of checks and balances. In her dissent, Associate Justice Elena Kagan puts it perfectly: “In every respect, the court today exceeds its proper, limited role in our nation’s governance… The result here is that the court substitutes itself for Congress and the Executive branch in making national policy about student-loan forgiveness.” Now, over 43 million borrowers – two-thirds of which are women – are left in limbo and deeply burdened by crippling debt that will undoubtedly worsen the affordability crisis and set our nation’s economy back for decades to come.

“It is not lost on me that the consequences of today’s decision will have far-reaching, harmful impacts on the economic futures and personal development of Black borrowers and young people – of whom over 70% are saddled with debilitating student loan debt – such as starting a family, building a business, or buying a home,” said AAMA President and Mount Vernon, NY Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. “But now we have both a challenge and an opportunity. In addition to increased Pell Grant funding, strengthened Title 3 (HBCU) programs, and free or low-cost community college for current borrowers, we call on Congress to immediately pass legislation to cancel student debt and alleviate this crisis for President Biden’s signature, and if Congress won’t take action, then it’s time for a new one.”

According to the Federal Reserve of New York, Americans hold over $1.6 trillion in student debt, second only to housing. Black women are most at risk with over $37,000 in student debt compared to white men at roughly $18,000. Biden’s plan would have provided targeted debt relief of up to $10,000 for borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year and provided an additional $10,000 in debt cancellation for Pell Grant recipients – about 29% of student loan borrowers would have had their full balances forgiven. Additionally, as part of the 2023 debt ceiling budget agreement, roughly 1 in 8 Americans must restart loan payments as soon as September.