ACTFL strongly opposes the recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to strike down President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. This decision will have major negative implications for our collective ability to recruit and retain a well-prepared, diverse, and highly effective language teacher workforce.
Racially and ethnically marginalized individuals are unduly impacted by this decision. The increased debt burden (or prospects thereof) is a deterrent to many talented individuals, especially those from low-income families or traditionally underrepresented communities, to consider pursuing a career as a language educator. An already difficult challenge—addressing diversity in the teacher pipeline and in our classrooms—was just made more difficult by this SCOTUS decision.
We know that the burden of student loan debt already falls disproportionately on the backs of students from the most marginalized and underrepresented groups. For example, while about 68% of white students take out student loan debt to pay for college, that number rises to 86% among Black students. In fact, the average total amount borrowed is nearly $10,000 more for Black students than white students. We acknowledge that this specific discrepancy is a direct result of generations of racist social and economic policies—slavery, redlining, Jim Crow segregation, and other anti-Black policies that have made it nearly impossible for Black Americans to accumulate wealth at the same rate as white Americans.
Add to this the strain this now puts on our current educators, many of whom are underpaid and under-supported. They lack the necessary funds for critical professional development and are forced to pay out of pocket to supply their own classrooms. This lack of investment in our educators ultimately leads to lower levels of job satisfaction, higher levels of attrition, and ultimately, can negatively impact the educational experience of our learners.
We strongly urge both President Biden and Members of Congress to find alternative ways to alleviate the crushing burden of student loan debt being faced by those who have chosen to serve our communities as educators. At the same time, we must prioritize college affordability and ensure that people of all backgrounds can pursue teaching as a profession without risk of a lifetime of insurmountable student debt. To this end, ACTFL will continue to support legislation like the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act introduced by Sen. Luján (D-NM), Rep. Fernández (D-NM), and Rep. Hayes (D-CT), which expands the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program, and the EDUCATORS for America Act, introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sen. Luján (D-NM), and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), which, among other things, doubles federal TEACH grants to $8,000 per year.
The student debt crisis is having a terrible impact far beyond each individual borrower; it negatively affects families, local communities, and our entire economy and society. Let’s find real, meaningful solutions to the current crisis, prioritize affordable educational opportunities for all, and create a more equitable, just education system that allows our language educators to continue to develop a globally competent citizenry now and for generations to come.
 Wright, Marisa. (2023, April 17). How Student Loan Forgiveness Can Help Close the Racial Gap and Advance Economic Justice. Legal Defense Fund. https://www.naacpldf.org/student-loans-racial-wealth-gap