Americans today hold $1.5 trillion in student debt, and recent research reveals that the effects of this outsized and growing debt are much more devastating than previously thought, particularly for communities of color. From bankruptcy protections and lower interest rates and fees to safeguards from fraudulent educational programs and even fullstudent debt cancellation, economic justice and higher education advocates continue to ask Congress and the Department of Education to help borrowers who are trapped by studentloan debt. These advocates have fought tooth and nail for even the “small” victories they’ve had. Borrower advocates, for example, have been struggling for the last four years to get the Department of Education to develop and implement a simple process to invalidate the debt of borrowers who are defrauded by their schools; Congress tasked the Department ofEducation with doing this nearly 25 years ago.
The difficulty of achieving relief for borrowers is all the more frustrating given how easy it has been for others who seek—and receive — a helping hand from the federal student loan program. Other participants in the student loan system, including lenders, servicers, debt collectors, and even colleges, routinely pursue bailouts , handouts, or flexibility from Congress and the Department of Education — and most of the time, they get it. In each case, government official s justify their actions as being in the best interests of students, student loan borrowers, or taxpayers. Upon closer examination, however, these claims do not hold up.