Canceling student debt to address systemic racism

Noted educator, scholar and journalist Andre Perry will deliver the third annual Graduate College Distinguished Lecture, “Canceling student debt is anti-racist (and why we must do it),” at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21.

Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, will discuss how centering student debt policy around students of color would help to combat historic systemic racism that has prevented people of color from gaining the wealth they were denied for centuries.

“The Graduate College has been focused on convening discussions about the impact of systemic racism on access to graduate education,” said Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate College Elizabeth Wentz. “Andre Perry, this year’s Distinguished Lecture speaker, has a unique perspective that we hope will inspire more discussion on how to create more equitable outcomes for all students in the future.”

For Perry, the impact of canceling student loan debt is clear. When you cancel student debt, you reduce the racial wealth gap.

“In many ways, student debt is hurting more Black students than many other students. If we eliminate student debt, we increase the capacity of Black people to buy homes and cars, which starts new businesses, which expands the economy,” Perry said. 

“So canceling debt is the right thing to do, it's the moral thing to do, but there's an economic benefit as well.”

Following Perry’s lecture, he will sit down with special guest Battinto Batts Jr., dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, for a Q&A session including questions from the audience. Questions for Perry can also be submitted in advance through in-person or virtual registration.

Perry knows that people may disagree about strategies for addressing systemic racism or about whether it exists, but he sees value in making “a head case and a heart case.” As with many issues involving racism, there will be people who don’t want to change things. 

“I want the ASU community to see themselves as part of a movement to eliminate racial inequality in this country,” Perry said. 

The Distinguished Lecture is open to ASU students, staff, faculty and members of the community and can be attended in-person or virtually.

>> Register here

About the Graduate College Distinguished Lecture series

The Graduate College Distinguished Lecture series brings leading scholars to engage the ASU community in a discussion of the advancement of graduate education as a public good and how to attract, nurture and inspire future generations of advanced learners, who will foster opportunity and well-being in their communities.

Past speakers in the series include UCLA Professor Sylvia Hurtado on civic learning for a diverse democracy and Louisiana State University President William F. Tate IV on graduate education and the democratic project.

Written by Jenna Nabors