LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell to support residents with student loan debt relief.
Since 1980, the cost of college has almost tripled ─ leaving more than 40 million Americans in debt for their education. This accounts for $1.7 trillion cumulatively and leaves Americans on an individual level strapped with financial hardship that can last a lifetime. In fact, more than 10 million Americans, were in delinquency or default. This is crushing, made even more so by the COVID-19 pandemic and severe inflation Americans now experience. According to a United States Department of Education analysis, the average undergraduate student with loans graduates with nearly $25,000 in debt.
The Biden-Harris administration has taken action to ameliorate the financial pain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes an unprecedented student debt relief providing up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the United States Department of Education. For non-Pell Grant recipients, $10,000 in debt cancellation is available. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for married couples.
“Although we expect a decision from the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit soon about the program, it is incumbent on government, including this Board, to make sure our residents and employees apply for the student loan debt relief as soon as possible. This motion seeks to ensure the financial well-being for our students by working to prevent student loan debt relief scams, but also exploring whether the County can take on any of our workers’ student loan debt ─ in furtherance to alleviate poverty and uplift economic mobility,” said Supervisor Solis.
Unfortunately, the heaviest burden falls on individuals of color Black women in particular are most severely impacted. According to the ACLU, the median Black borrower owes 95% of debt compared with the median white borrower who has paid off 94% of debt two decades after taking out student loans. Student loan debt also disproportionately impacts Latino undergraduate students. Excelencia in Education found that 51% of Latino undergraduate students who began their postsecondary education in 2012 borrowed funds. Approximately 36% of Latinos will owe more than the amount they originally owed after starting college 12 years earlier per a UnidosUS report.
“This motion is another step forward in the County’s work to address the economic challenges that impact the cost of living and help perpetuate poverty. We know the price for education has not been equitably borne by all and that college fees have skyrocketed by more than 100 percent over the past four decades. I am proud that today’s motion is the first-of-its-kind in exploring how the County can alleviate student loan debt for our workers earning less than the County’s area median income and the far-reaching impact that this will have on their families and communities,” said Supervisor Mitchell.
The motion approved today directs all County departments, leveraging support from the Department of Consumer & Business Affairs, to include information about the student loan debt relief program on their respective websites, electronic newsletters, and other modes of communication for those without internet access to ensure eligible clients apply. It also instructs the Department of Human Resources to work with all County departments to inform their employees about the student debt relief program.
Additionally, this motion directs the Chief Executive Office – Legislative Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations Branch to commend Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for their commitment, and support legislation, if needed, to ensure that the student debt loan relief recovered by Californians is not taxed.
Furthermore, the motion instructs the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, in consultation with the Department of Human Resources, County Counsel, and the Chief Executive Office to explore all options for the County to purchase unpaid or defaulted student loan debt of County employees earning less than County area median income for the purposes of poverty alleviation and economic mobility, and provide a report back to the Board in 120 days.
To read the full motion click here.