MDC releases Student Loan Policy Agenda

Dr. Jason Caldwell shared MDC’s Student Loan Debt Policy Agenda at The Collaborative NC annual conference as part of the Student Loan Roundtable panel.

The burden of student loan debt looms large for policymakers and millions of Americans. Durham NC-based non-profit MDC has released a policy agenda for reducing student loan debt in North Carolina. MDC is a national partner of the Southern Partnership to Reduce Debt (SPRD). For over 50 years, institutions, communities, foundations, and others across the South have turned to MDC for deep knowledge and proven tools to design, demonstrate, and sustain what works to boost members of underinvested communities to higher rungs on the economic ladder.

Nationally, student loan debt totals an astounding $1.71 trillion – almost the same price tag as the American Rescue Plan Act. $45.9 billion of that debt resides in North Carolina, with 11.7% of North Carolinians making student loan payments. Black and African American student borrowers are the most likely to struggle financially due to student loan debt, with 29% of this group paying $350 or more per month in loan payments.

The Southern Partnership to Reduce Debt (SPRD) recognized that North Carolina and the South needed a bold, comprehensive vision for tackling the student loan debt crisis that is firmly rooted in racial and gender equity. With a SPRD grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, MDC conducted background research and convened, and coordinated a working group to develop a policy agenda to reduce student loan debt in North Carolina.

Policy recommendations fall into three categories:

Advocacy
• Create a North Carolina Student Loan Advocacy Group
• Consider supporting proposals to cancel or reduce student loan debt

Access
• Expand North Carolina’s Finish Line Grants Program
• Create more need-based scholarships and grants
• Revise student loan repayment options towards faster pathways for cancellation.
• Increase enrollment of more students of color in College and Career Promise
• Develop family support and sustainability grants

Affordability
• Reduce the cost of attending public postsecondary education
• Create better degree/career pathways

“Our goal with the policy agenda is to amplify the current efforts of stakeholders to reduce the burden of student loan debt in North Carolina” explains MDC Senior Policy Consultant, Dr. Jason Caldwell. “We believe the agenda’s recommendations, grounded in qualitative research, can help build a cohesive path and vision for policymakers to address the student loan crisis.”

A multidisciplinary working group of over 11 organizations contributed insights and feedback that formed the basis of the policy agenda.  With the completion of the policy agenda, MDC plans to move forward with the development of an associated advocacy plan. This plan will advance the policy agenda with an expanded set of stakeholders and mobilize additional funders and partners in shaping long-term strategies.

Read the policy agenda here and check out Dr. Caldwell’s presentation here.