Essex County Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson
Resolution introduced by Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson affirms the Board’s support of the Federal Government cancelling all student loan debt
(Newark, NJ) – On January 5, 2022, the Essex County Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution calling on the Federal Government to enact a plan to cancel all student loan debt and transition towards the provision of higher education as a public good. The resolution was introduced by Commissioner President Wayne Richardson, passed by acclamation, and affirms the Board’s position that student loan debt is a major factor in pushing families deeper into poverty, and further exacerbating the poverty rate in Essex County and throughout the country.
According to the Federal Reserve, in quarter two of 2021, Americans owed a startling $1.73 trillion in student loans. Debt is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes, increased stress, depression, and early mortality. Under the Higher Education Act of 1965, the President of the United States and the Secretary of Education have the authority to cancel all Federal student loan debt. Cancelling the debt, and eliminating future debt as a result of loans issued to pursue higher education, represents an enormous economic opportunity for Essex County to increase spending in our local community, support individuals’ upward mobility, and provide a deeply needed stimulus during the pandemic.
New Jersey, specifically, is one of the top five student debtor states in the nation with the average graduate acquiring $34,387 in loans. New Jersey also has the third highest cost of attendance for in-state, full-time students at $26,070 per year. Additionally, student loans have disproportionately affected communities of color. The cost of public universities in New Jersey is over half the typical income for Black and Latina/Latino families statewide. Even after factoring in financial aid, the average price of attendance at New Jersey’s public four-year schools represents about a third of the household income for Black and Latina/Latino families, compared to just 17 percent for the state’s white families. Lastly, 21 percent of student loan holders in Black communities, communities of color and immigrant communities in Essex County are in default, compared to just four percent of the student loan holders in white communities in the county. These numbers illustrate how the current higher education system in New Jersey creates extreme financial burdens on students with the greatest financial need, and reinforces the racial wealth gap in the state.
Nicole Lancaster, an early childhood education teacher in Newark and member of NJ Communities United, applauded the Board’s resolution and articulated the positive impact the cancellation of student debt will have on future generations. “I applaud the Essex County Board of Commissioners for passing the resolution calling on President Biden to cancel all federal student loan debt.” Ms. Lancaster stated. “I have struggled for years to pay for basic needs for my family, while managing student debt, and now my student debt is limiting the educational opportunities for my children. Without action now, our children will forgo college entirely, or be forced into unmanageable mountains of debt.”
Commissioner President Richardson was pleased with the Board’s support of the resolution and believes the time is now to call on the Federal Government to provide assistance to residents and communities in need that have been traditionally victimized by overbearing debt.
“Student debt is a national crisis that impacts poor and working-class youth all over this country, but disproportionately impacts black and brown youth, who have more loans and are less likely to secure high paying jobs.” Commissioner President Richardson stated, “It is incumbent upon the federal government, one way or another, to ease this burden and give this generation of young adults a chance to experience financial security.”
The Essex County Board of County Commissioners joins the municipal governments of Newark, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; Cambridge and Somerset, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. in officially calling on the federal government to cancel federal student loan debt.
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For Additional Information – Contact:
Kyalo Mulumba, Public Information Officer
Essex County Board of County Commissioners
973-621-4452 (phone) 973-621-5695 (fax)