"Ay Sallie, I know I ain't been answering your calls But ----, let me explain- it's because times been hard Been running around trying find a job I hear my phone ringing in the morning, 9 o’clock And it's you, can't even front I press ignore I still got your letters laying in my dresser drawer..." - J. Cole from "A Dollar and a Dream II"
The lyrics above played in my head as I read post after post about Betsy DeVos’ letter to the Federal Student Aid office informing them of her withdrawal of student loan protections.
The lyrics overwhelm me. They resonate with me too closely.
Over the years, I cannot count the amount of times I’ve pressed the ignore button, or the amounts of letters I’ve stashed in the nooks of dressers and drawers and shoeboxes. I know what it feels to be on the brink of default. I know what it feels like to be misinformed and misled by lenders; to feel harassed so consistently by phone calls that a vibration from my phone struck me with anxiety.
The protections enacted by the Obama administration [pdf] had clear intentions: To provide borrowers with alternative ways to manage their debt, and to hold lenders accountable by ensuring they did not engage in unethical and predatory practices.
Betsy is relinquishing lenders of accountability, and consequently making some of our country’s most vulnerable borrowers even more defenseless. Her newest memo effectively eliminates the previous memorandums which simplified the repayment process of debts, created protections for borrowers, and evaluated the quality of service providers.
DeVos’ memo also failed to include policies that would replace the ones she withdrew.
In a 2016 Brookings’ report by Judith Scott-Clayton and Jing Li they analyzed the disproportionate level of debt Black students accumulate in comparison to their White peers with similar degrees. They observed that Black college graduates amass over $7,000 more on average than White students, and that amount of debt triples within four years. They also observed data that showed Black students default at a rate 5 times higher than White and Asian students.
Black students are borrowing and defaulting at an alarming rate.
President Obama put protections in place to ensure that college graduates could borrow responsibly, and be able to appropriately pay back their debts. He acknowledged that financial institutions were abusing the rights of borrowers, providing misleading information, and engaging in vulturous practices.
DeVos isn’t making college more affordable for us. She will not improve outcomes and experiences for federal loan borrowers that are people of color. She is not increasing accountability and transparency for the protection of Black and Brown finances.
She ain’t helping to build Black and Brown futures.