By Ella Azoulay | February 17, 2023
In fewer than two weeks, the Supreme Court will hear the case for President Biden’s student debt relief plan and determine the financial fate of more than 40 million student loan borrowers. The court’s decision will be a turning point in the fight to use the power of government to help American families make ends meet.
Unfortunately, right-wing special interests have done everything in their power to prevent President Biden’s relief plan from reaching tens of millions of families who need help weathering the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading the effort to block debt relief, politicians from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina aim to protect the narrow financial interests of student loan companies—even though this effort would deprive millions of their own constituents of billions of dollars in relief.
The six states’ officials are aligned with a narrow coalition of conservative activists, front groups for right-wing billionaires, and lobbyists for America’s largest corporations—special interests that filed briefs with the Supreme Court backing the effort to block debt relief. These activists and special interests were joined by the right flank of the House and Senate Republican caucuses—128 Members of Congress and 42 Senators—who urged the court to reject the economic interests of their own communities. A new analysis by SBPC lays bare the stakes of this fight in each congressional district:
Across the districts represented by the 128 Members of Congress who urged the Supreme Court to block student debt relief, more than 7 million people applied to have their student debt cancelled, and more than 4.5 million have been approved.
The underlying data for this map are available here.
Luckily, local leaders in red-state cities have joined the fight on the side of student loan borrowers and reminded the court and the country that the actions of these hard-right ideologues face opposition at home. The mayors of St. Louis, Missouri; Kansas City, Missouri; and Little Rock, Arkansas joined more than three dozen other local governments last month in a big move to defend student loan borrowers by speaking up against these sham lawsuits. They filed a brief before the Supreme Court rebutting the claims made by right-wing officials in their states and emphasized the local economic benefits that will result from student debt relief.
In addition to the district-by-district map of debt relief linked above, today, SBPC is releasing a new analysis that shows what’s at stake for student loan borrowers in many of the largest cities in states with the most vocal, platformed opponents of student debt relief, including the six states currently suing to block relief. The 25 cities below are each home to tens or hundreds of thousands of borrowers who would benefit from the President’s student debt relief plan.
The proof is in the pudding: we already knew that student debt relief is popular across demographics, ages, education levels, borrowing statuses, and political ideologies, but SBPC’s new analysis shows how many borrowers in cities and congressional districts across the country stand to benefit from relief. As long as partisan politicians continue opposing the will and best interests of the people they are bound to represent, these borrowers’ financial futures will be at risk.
It’s long past due for hardliners to get out of the way, stop imposing financial harm on the people they purport to serve, and finally allow tens of millions of student loan borrowers to benefit from student debt relief.
Ella Azoulay is the Research & Policy Analyst at the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC). She joined SBPC from the Center for American Progress, where she worked on higher education policy and advocacy.