Updated May 10, 2022 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on accessibility and affordability in education

On Tuesday, May 10th, Axios justice and race reporter Russ Contreras and business reporter Erica Pandey led conversations examining initiatives to resolve higher education barriers that students from marginalized communities often face. Guests included Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and The Education Trust-West executive director Christopher J. Nellum.

Miguel Cardona explained how the Department of Education is working to make college more affordable for people who pursue careers in teaching and public service, address issues at the root of student debt problems and expand access to alternative forms of higher education.

  • On revamping the public service loan forgiveness program: “It was broken, it really was broken. 98% of the applicants were denied, and this program from 2017 until 2022, served 7,000 people in the span of four or five years. We’ve served over 113,000 in one year…we are working really hard to provide loan forgiveness to public servants…it’s worth it to know that educators don’t have to be buried in debt for the rest of their lives.”
  • On tackling student debt and college affordability: “I’ve said in the past, loan forgiveness is one thing, but we’re also fixing the problems that got us to where we are. We’re making sure college affordability is a shared goal with our college leaders, with our partners in the education field. We’ve also looked deeper into some of these debts that borrowers have…[for] over 400,000 borrowers, we’ve canceled their loans if they were deemed total and permanently disabled.”

Christopher J. Nellum conveyed how a new California law will expand access to financial aid for low-income students, how a college education can help students overcome poverty and why loan forgiveness proposals would help students if they are implemented.

  • On California’s new law requiring high school students to fill out FAFSA: “We need people to understand different financial aid packages. We need people to understand that they actually can afford to go, that’s really the piece that was important to us: that there is money, free money in often cases, for folks to go to college. We think it’s a tremendously important step and the state agreed with us, and now we have this new law that will go into effect next year.”
  • On student loan forgiveness proposals: “We need to do away with student debt, and then also figure out a way to control college costs on the other side of the equation. I think it would be a huge policy win for the administration, and I think it would hugely help students of color. In particular, we know Black women carry more debt and then experience a wealth gap, and so I think it would be tremendous if that were to happen.”

In the View from the Top segment, Sallie Mae CEO Jon Witter highlighted the importance of ensuring that students have access to a variety of resources and ways to pay for college.

  • “Loans can be a part of the answer, but we need more grants. We need more scholarships. The good news is that this is starting to happen already. The federal government is looking hard at Pell Grants. There’s broad bipartisan support to enhance that program. Universities are looking hard at both the level of financial support they give and how they award it, and the private sector is getting involved too.”

Thank you Sallie Mae for sponsoring this event.

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