Student Debt Relief Is Worth It to Young Farmers


As the political and legal battle heats up over student loan forgiveness, 22 million applicants for the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief program await relief in the nine weeks before the student loan payment pause is due to expire. Last Friday, October 21st, a federal appeals court put a temporary hold on President Biden’s student debt cancellation program, keeping the government from proceeding with authorizing cancellations while the court considers a challenge that a federal judge in Missouri rejected the day before. Before then, the Administration had agreed not to move beyond the application process and to hold off on authorizing canceling any debt before Sunday, October 23rd. The Administration is encouraging borrowers to continue to apply for debt relief. Applying ensures that when the program is no longer on hold, your cancellation can proceed immediately. 

“When I got started in farming, no one told me my student loans would be such a hurdle,” said Davon Goodwin, owner of Off the Land (OTL) Farms in North Carolina and former president of the National Young Farmers Coalition Board of Directors. “No one talks about student loans at a farm meeting. But the reality is that my student loans were standing in the way of my land purchase. Bankers told me that I didn’t have enough farm income to purchase a farm, and that the only way I could get a land loan would be to have an off-farm job.”

Davon makes clear the importance of student debt relief for young farmers entering the field. His wife’s $70,000 in student debt from nursing school added complexity to the challenge of securing financing for land. Although they both maintained off-farm jobs, if they had gotten married before securing a loan to purchase land, both of their student debt totals would have been considered by the lender. As a result, they postponed their marriage until the loan was secured.  As Davon put it in his testimony before the Subcommittee on Agriculture, “The barriers to farming became not just financial but personal.”

According to our 2022 National Survey Report, 62% of Black young farmers hold active student loan debt, compared to 38% of all young farmers. And on average, Black borrowers have nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation—almost twice as much as their white counterparts.

Davon shared that “Another aspiring farmer in my community said he could never farm because of his student loan debt. If young people are saddled with student loans, how will we replace our aging farm population?

Black Americans are the only people in the U.S. who have student debt higher than their median annual income, and while the $10,000 in cancellation President Biden authorized would not resolve this issue, this initial program is a foundational step toward a large-scale demonstration of the economic good debt cancellation can do. Therefore, it is worth fighting for proceeding with the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief program, and providing means to reduce the debt burden on students who attend U.S. colleges and universities. In policy, the Resolution to Cancel Student Debt sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA); and the Debt-Free College Act sponsored by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Representative Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) can make way. 

Click here to apply for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation on federally-held student loans now. The application takes less than one minute to complete. Please share the link with everyone in your networks. 

After you apply, you will get an email that your application was received. It may take weeks for your application to be processed. The Department of Education or your loan servicer will let you know when it is approved and how much in cancellation you will receive. Some borrowers may be asked to provide proof of their income after they apply. The Department will contact you if proof is needed. 

**Beware of scams** Only apply or upload proof of income through studentaid.gov.

 

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Read the entire statement from Davon.

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