A group of Penn Law students wrote an open letter, refuting President Biden’s argument at a town hall on February 16 that Ivy League students do not deserve student debt relief.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

After President Joe Biden mentionned that it wouldn’t write off student debt “for the people who went to Harvard, Yale, and Penn,” Penn Law School students demand that university administrators hold a meeting between the Biden administration and the students and alumni who hold federal student debt.

In a town hall meeting on Feb. 16, Biden said he would not support canceling student debt for students attending Ivy League universities, specifically naming Penn. In response, a group of Penn Law students collectively wrote an open letter to rebut Biden’s argument that Ivy League students do not deserve student debt relief. More than 100 students, alumni and allies have signed on to the open letter, demanding that the Penn administrators organize a meeting between the Biden administration and the students and alumni so that they can share their experiences as student debtors.

Biden told city hall he would only consider writing off up to $ 10,000 in debt to support students rather than writing off up to $ 50,000 in debt that many were waiting for. He added that student debt relief for graduates of elite institutions would be better spent on other priorities such as early childhood education or free community colleges.

“We refuse to allow the stereotype of an Ivy League student to excuse the Biden administration from implementing the debt cancellation of millions of Americans, many of whom are our own,” the letter said. opened.

JD third-year Penn Law candidate Magali Duque said the open letter arose out of a desire to challenge the use of a monolithic view of Penn students as wealthy and undeserving of so-called debt relief. that, on the contrary, Biden’s policies could have a significant impact on narrowing the racial wealth gap and the pursuit of financial fairness for many.

“[Student debt relief] would significantly relieve students of color and all low-income students from the unfair burden of being disproportionately forced into debt in order to get an education, pursue a career, be able to afford a decent life and contribute to significantly to the economy, ”said Duqué.

Duque said she also signed the letter because she would hold more than $ 400,000 in student debt after graduating from Penn in 2022 after attending a total of three universities.

Kristen Smith, a 2015 School of Social Practice and Policy graduate who currently works at SP2, signed the letter as a four-year-old first-generation student who has racked up over $ 200,000 in student debt. Smith said that as a first-generation college student, she initially didn’t know how student debt would affect her.

“There is this misconception that most Ivy League college graduates come from privileged families who can afford to help them with their debt. But that’s not true,” Smith said.

The open letter also stresses the importance of student debt relief to ensure that all students have the opportunity to pursue a career in public service.

While sophomore JD Penn Law candidate Zachary Green received a full Penn Law scholarship and has no student debt, he signed the letter as an ally because he thinks that his classmates should be able to navigate their graduate studies. career without the burden of student debt.

“The reason I came [to Penn Law] It’s because I realized that it would actually allow me to do what I would like to do when I leave here, ”Green said. “The level of choice that is open to me is the level of choice that should be available to everyone.

Biden’s statement had previously sparked backlash among Penn’s first-generation and low-income undergraduates. Faith Bochert, a sophomore at Rising Wharton and FGLI student, previously told the Daily Pennsylvanian that she viewed Biden’s statement as a “direct insult” because she felt Biden’s comment discredited his accomplishment of being admitted to Penn as an FGLI student.

While the group is currently waiting for more signatories and testimonials before contacting the Penn administration, they are determined to share with University administrators their stories, views and conclusions as students who hold a federal debt, organizers said.

“As law students who have known and understood the economic impact of debt on our lives and communities, we have felt called to act given our unique and privileged position as students of Penn,” said said Duque.