Amherst Town Council calls on Biden to cancel student debt 

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/18/2022 9:01:15 PM
Modified: 5/18/2022 8:59:29 PM

AMHERST — Amherst’s Town Council is making an appeal to President Joe Biden to cancel all student debt, joining Northampton’s City Council in passing such a resolution.

“It has turned out to be a terrible, terrible trick on young people,” said District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, calling the student loan system a complete shambles. “We now have a whole generation of people, or two generations, unable to move forward with their adult life as they are completely weighed down and burdened by this debt.”

The resolution was adopted by the Town Council this week in an 11-1 vote, with At Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke voting against it, and District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen abstaining.

Over the winter, Northampton adopted a similar resolution unanimously.

Hanneke said her concerns are that canceling all student debt might not decrease the wealth gap, but might do the opposite, instead, and that the $1.7 trillion cost to the federal government could be better used for targeted income-based programs for individuals who need them to attend college or who have low-wage jobs.

“Canceling all student debt, as some recent editorials and other research has shown, may actually make the problem worse in the future by encouraging more debt in anticipation of another debt amnesty,” Hanneke said.

Schoen said she understands the issue of debt is a crushing problem, but giving away federal resources is not a solution, and could undermine reforms of other important programs, like early childhood education. “I just think it’s extremely bad policy to go this route,” Schoen said.

District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne supported the resolution, though suggested a tiered approach based on income, as proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, might make more sense, thus making sure people who need it are getting the support.

At Large Councilor Ellisha Walker, who co-sponsored the resolution, said canceling all student debt is not a long-term solution that will solve educational issues, but also won’t worsen the situation. “I think we see it as a first step,” Walker said.

“We’re not passing policy on this one,” said At-Large Councilor Andy Steinberg, also a co-sponsor. “We’re stating a preference to get attention of our elected officials to impress them to move in a direction to address a serious problem.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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