The Urgency and Equity of Student Debt Cancellation

20 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2021

See all articles by Ashley Harrington

Ashley Harrington

Center for Responsible Lending

Mark Huelsman

Higher Education Policy Expert

Date Written: November 23, 2020


The year 2020 has been one of deep political and economic turmoil: a year in which families’ finances were thrown into disarray; a year in which millions stood up to protect, respect, and center Black and Brown lives; a year in which a global pandemic magnified the basic inequity and unfairness at the heart of so much of our economy and society. Americans deserve a government and a policy agenda that meets the moment and gives hardworking families the ability to make ends meet and not fall further behind. We also deserve an agenda that reverses policies that have, either intentionally or through benign neglect, contributed to the generational and racial wealth inequality that is suppressing economic growth.

Because of student debt, rather than lifting people out of poverty and providing access to the middle class, higher education is exacerbating the racial wealth gap and perpetuating the cycle of poverty that results from systemic lack of access to resources, capital, and affordable credit. If we can reform higher education so that its promise as a path to the American dream is restored for all students, we may well be on our way to building a more inclusive, just economy. This article makes the case for student debt cancellation as a critical piece of the fight for racial and economic justice.

Keywords: student debt, student loan, cancellation, discharge, racial equity, discrimination, student lending

Suggested Citation

Harrington, Ashley and Huelsman, Mark, The Urgency and Equity of Student Debt Cancellation (November 23, 2020). Student Borrower Protection Center Research Paper 2020, Available at SSRN: or

Ashley Harrington (Contact Author)

Center for Responsible Lending ( email )

1330 Broadway, Suite 604
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

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Mark Huelsman

Higher Education Policy Expert ( email )

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