Here are 10 climate executive actions Biden says he will take on day one

Author: Kate Sullivan            Published: 11/11/2020              CNN

Washington (CNN)President-elect Joe Biden is planning a flurry of executive actions when he takes office on January 20, and many focus on combating the global climate crisis.

Biden’s legislative agenda on climate will largely depend on whether Democrats gain control of the US Senate, which will be decided in two run-off elections in Georgia taking place on January 5. But regardless of which party controls the Senate, Biden has pledged to sign a series of executive orders, which do not require congressional approval.
The 10 executive actions Biden has said he will take on his first day as president to combat the crisis and reduce emissions are:
  • Require limits on methane pollution for oil and gas operations.
  • Use the federal government procurement system to work towards 100% clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles.
  • Ensure US government buildings and facilities are more efficient and climate-ready.
  • Implement the already-existing Clean Air Act, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by developing new fuel economy standards to ensure all new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified, and annual improvements for heavy duty vehicles.
  • Double down on liquid fuels like advanced biofuels and make agriculture a key part of the solution to the climate crisis.
  • Reduce emissions and cut consumer costs through new standards for appliance and building efficiency.
  • Require federal permit decisions to consider effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and ensure every federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution.
  • Require public companies to disclose climate risks and greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.
  • Protect biodiversity, slow extinction rates and conserve 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.
  • Permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, establish national parks and monuments, ban new oil and gas permits on public lands and waters, modify royalties to account for climate costs and creating programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewable energy on federal lands and waters to double offshore wind by 2030.
Stef Feldman, Biden’s campaign policy director, tells CNN that Biden’s climate plan is an “all-of-government agenda,” and will be worked on across departments and agencies.
“From the very beginning of the campaign, when President-elect Biden rolled out his climate plan, he made it clear he sees this as an all-of-government agenda, domestic, economic, foreign policy,” Feldman said. “From the very beginning, when he talked about infrastructure, he talked about making sure that it built in climate change, that we are making our communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.”
Biden has laid out an ambitious climate plan with the goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It includes a $1.7 trillion investment in clean energy and green jobs, and calls for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and a ban on new oil and gas permits on public lands.
The President-elect has also promised on his first day in office to rejoin the Paris climate accord, a landmark international deal to combat the climate crisis that Trump pulled out of in 2017.

Biden prioritizes climate crisis by naming John Kerry special envoy

Author: Kate Sullivan       Published:   11/24/2020   CNN

In this December 10, 2019, file photo, former Secretary of State John Kerry attends the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid.

In this December 10, 2019, file photo, former Secretary of State John Kerry attends the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid.

Washington (CNN)President-elect Joe Biden has appointed John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate, underscoring his commitment to tackling the global crisis and offering a symbolic rebuke to President Donald Trump’s lack of leadership on the issue.

Kerry, who was President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, will be a Cabinet-level official in Biden’s administration and will sit on the National Security Council.
“This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue,” the Biden transition team said in a statement on Monday.
The elevation of the issue in Kerry’s appointment previews a shift in policy and approach from the current President’s repeated denial of the scientific reality of the crisis and systematic rollback of environmental policies.
Biden introduced Kerry at an event on Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware, alongside other key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointees.
“Mr. President-elect, you’ve put forward a bold transformative climate plan. But you’ve also underscored that no country alone can solve this challenge. Even the United States, for all of our industrial strength, is responsible for only 13% of global emissions. To end this crisis, the whole world must come together. You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one, and you’re right to recognize that Paris alone is not enough,” Kerry said at the event, referring to the landmark Paris climate agreement.
“At the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together or we will all fail together,” he continued. “And failure is not an option.”
The energy around the issue of the climate crisis has escalated in a short period of time. When Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, during his first presidential campaign in 2016, called climate change the foremost national security crisis, he was pilloried as not being serious about foreign policy. Five years later, the White House will have a special envoy for climate with a seat at National Security Council meetings.
Kerry has long worked on climate issues. As secretary of state, he played a key role in negotiating the Paris agreement, which was adopted by nearly 200 nations in 2015 and was aimed at addressing the negative impacts of climate change. Trump withdrew the US from agreement, and Biden has pledged to rejoin it on his first day in office.
In 2019, Kerry co-founded a bipartisan initiative of world leaders and celebrities to combat the climate crisis called World War Zero. In the wake of the Democratic primary, he was a co-chair of the Biden-Sanders unity task force focused on producing policy recommendations on climate, along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
The co-founder and executive director of a leading progressive group on climate, Sunrise Movement, congratulated Kerry on his appointment and said the creation of the role was an “encouraging sign.” Varshini Prakash, who served alongside Kerry on the unity task force, described him as “committed to engaging and listening to young voices — even when we might not always agree — and ensuring we have a seat at the table.”
But Prakash said the one role was “not enough” and that Biden’s White House “must also include a domestic counterpart reporting directly to the President to lead an Office of Climate Mobilization.”
The President-elect is expected to have a White House climate director working on domestic issues who will be on equal footing with Kerry, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to CNN.
This is not the first time the White House will have a “climate czar,” though Kerry’s role, with him also sitting on the NSC, is different in design.
When President Barack Obama took office, he appointed Carol Browner — the former EPA administrator under the Clinton administration — as “climate czar” to coordinate the administration’s energy and climate policy from the White House.
Among Browner’s accomplishments was spearheading a successful landmark deal with US automakers in 2009 to impose higher fuel-efficiency standards on new cars and trucks. But the Obama administration’s climate priorities were met with resistance in Congress, and a comprehensive climate and energy bill — which included cap-and-trade provisions — collapsed in 2010 when it failed to pass the Senate. Browner served in the climate czar role from 2009 to 2011.
Kerry served alongside Biden in the Senate for decades. He was first elected to the Senate to represent Massachusetts in 1984 after serving as lieutenant governor of the state under Gov. Michael Dukakis.
In 2004, Kerry won the Democratic nomination for president before losing the general election to incumbent President George W. Bush. In 2009, when Biden became vice president, Kerry took over his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was nominated to serve as secretary of state by Obama in 2012.
Kerry served in the Navy in Vietnam as a gunboat officer on the Mekong Delta and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.
Biden has proposed an ambitious plan to spend $2 trillion over four years on clean energy projects and to end carbon emissions from power plants by 2035. The President-elect’s legislative agenda on climate will largely depend on whether Democrats gain control of the US Senate, however, which will be decided in two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5. But regardless of which party controls the Senate, Biden has pledged on day one to sign a series of climate executive orders, which will not require congressional approval.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

How Student Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap Reinforce Each Other

Authors: Jen Mishory,  Mark Huelsman and Suzanne Kahn     9/9/2019     The Century Foundation


Crisis-level student debt hinders economic progress in many ways, including reinforcing racial wealth inequality.

In order to finance higher education, Black families—already disadvantaged by generational wealth disparities—rely more heavily on student debt, and on riskier forms of student debt, than white families do. The additional risks Black students face when taking on student debt are exacerbated by other disparities in the higher education system, including predatory for-profit colleges that engage in race-based targeting. The disparities continue after these students leave school. Due to lower family wealth and racial discrimination in the job market, Black students are far more likely than white students to experience negative financial events after graduating—including loan default, higher interest rate payments, and higher graduate school debt balances. This means that while many Black families currently need to rely on debt to access a college degree and its resulting wage premium, the disproportionate burden of student debt perpetuates the racial wealth gap. To fairly evaluate any higher education reform proposal, we must understand the ways that these dual burdens—less wealth and more debt—lead to worse outcomes for Black students than white students.

In 2019, Americans collectively owe more than $1.6 trillion in student debt,1 and the number of families burdened has grown rapidly: One in five US households now has student loan debt, compared to one in 10 in 1989.2 In the face of these overwhelming numbers, many policymakers have begun to offer their own tuition-free and debt-free college policy plans—and even debt cancellation proposals—as a way to reinvest in higher education and America’s students. These proposals have sparked a fierce debate about who ought to benefit from this endeavor or how new resources should be allocated. Too often, however, these conversations overlook the critical background context of who currently benefits and loses when much of the higher education system is financed through individual debt rather than upfront public investment.

To provide this context, this report compiles the research on racial disparities both in the use of student debt and in higher education outcomes, specifically focusing on disparities between white students and Black students. In order to do so, we bring together two streams of research that are often siloed: research from experts on higher education access and success alongside research from economists, sociologists, and others who specialize in race inequality and, in particular, the racial wealth gap. These researchers tend to draw on different sets of data and focus on different outcomes, and thus often identify different problems—yet both are critical to designing meaningful reforms. When we bring these strands of research together, we get an increasingly clear picture: the racial wealth gap, high student debt levels, and unequal higher education access and outcomes for students of color—and particularly women of color—continuously reinforce each other.

This report highlights the need for higher education policies that get students of color both into and through college in order to realize the wage benefits of a college degree. It also underscores the need to take into account the structural inequalities and discrimination that shape every step of the experience of students of color both in college—from paying for college to accessing academic opportunities—and in the job market after leaving school with or without a postsecondary credential.

In Section 1 of this report, we describe how historic policy decisions, both in higher education and in the economy more broadly, have contributed to these structural racial inequities. In Section 2, we examine key findings across disciplines from researchers who have studied student debt with a racial lens. Then, we conclude by discussing what policy changes could help break the cycle connecting student debt and the racial wealth gap. This report is followed by an appendix that looks more closely at the data sets used by researchers in different disciplines and an annotated bibliography.

Section 1: The Development of Racial Inequities in the American Higher Education System

To often in policymaking, we view the inequities in our current system as natural and inevitable instead of as the consequence of deliberate policy choices. The American higher education system, however, is replete with examples of policies that directly exacerbate or create racial inequities. These can include:

  • Policies designed to be explicitly racist or lock out people of color from part or all of the educational system;
  • Seemingly race-neutral policies deliberately implemented to ensure racist outcomes (and, at times, crafted with this as the intended result); and
  • Policies intended to be truly race-neutral that, when implemented within existing inequitable systems, perpetuate racial inequalities.

The racist structures that these policy choices built into the higher education system—in conjunction with similar structures throughout the American economy—have rippling effects today:
The relatively recent policy choice to ask individual students to access higher education through debt-financing has had a disproportionate impact on students of color. By first building a racially discriminatory system, then dismantling only the system’s most overtly racist features, and finally turning student debt—rather than upfront public investment—as a means of broadening access, policymakers have created a system where inequality, discrimination, and structural barriers for black and brown people throughout the economy help determine the cost and the scale of the ultimate financial pay-off of going to college.

The higher education system, a resource intended to serve as a primary tool for economic mobility, is not equally accessible for Black and white families. Such inequality is manifest throughout the broader educational system and economy as well. In the United States, every key economic and social resource—from housing to banking to the K–12 education system—developed in a racist political context. All have inequities baked into their structures that limit economic mobility and Black families’ ability to build wealth.3

K-12 Education

From kindergarten on, most students move through a deeply segregated system.4 The school-integration efforts that followed Brown v. Board of Education saw a reversal starting in the 1980s, when courts allowed state legislatures to unravel the structures put in place to desegregate schools. As a result, schools in many areas of the country have resegregated. By 1989, 83 percent of Black students attended majority-minority schools.5 Segregated schools have resulted in massive resource gaps; predominantly white districts receive nearly $23 billion more in funding than nonwhite districts despite serving a similar number of students, leading to a persistent gap in white and Black graduation rates.6

The Racially Inequitable Expansions of American Higher Education

The racist policy choices underlying the higher education system started with the earliest federal policies supporting the development of the public college and university system. Early federal investment in higher education—for example, the Morrill Act’s creation of land-grant colleges in the 19th century—gave federal funding and land to states with formally segregated higher education systems. Even after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, federal education dollars continued to fund states with segregated systems. At the end of the 1960s, 19 states still operated segregated universities and colleges.7 It was not until the 1970s that courts began to force states to desegregate their university systems.8

Prior to the court-ordered desegregation of state university systems, significant federal investments in the higher-education system—such as the GI Bill and the Higher Education Act of 1965—had very different impacts on Black and white students. Columbia political science professor Ira Katznelson shows that in order to win support from Southern members of Congress, the GI Bill allowed state and local administrators a great deal of autonomy in implementing the program. State officials then made choices that prevented eligible Black GIs from accessing the full range of education benefits: Segregated colleges refused to accept Black GIs in numbers that accommodated all who were eligible; career-placement officers channeled Black GIs away from more lucrative job training programs and toward traditionally Black occupations; and GI bill administrators in some Southern states refused to approve many Black colleges and vocational schools’ receipt of GI Bill benefits.9 In 1947, over 20,000 eligible Black veterans reported being unable to find a spot in a higher education institution.10 Because of the inequitable administration of the GI bill, Black institutions lacked the facilities and funding to meet demand. The disparity in funding for minority-serving institutions has continued to this day.

Present-Day Funding Disparities

Disparities in state funding between two- and four-year public institutions and between flagship and satellite state campuses are prevalent throughout the higher education system. Unsurprisingly, as a result of disparities that manifest in K-12 system, as well as discrimination in admissions and other factors, students of color are more likely than their white counterparts to attend underfunded public institutions that spend less per student.11 The disparities in funding among institutions extend to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). One study found that in 2014, four traditionally white institutions received more in federal, state, and local contracts and grants than all 89 four-year HBCUs combined.12 Even among public institutions, public HBCUs have fewer non-public resources: 54 percent of public, four-year HBCUs’ revenue comes from government sources, while their predominantly white counterparts only rely on government sources for 38 percent of their annual revenue.13 And because alumni have less wealth, private HBCUs have smaller endowments and fewer resources.14 Despite this, HBCUs grant about 17 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black students and a full quarter of STEM degrees awarded to Black students.15

For communities of color, where many families saw their net worth cut nearly in half during the recession, we have added high costs and debt to family balance sheets that have not recovered from the crisis over a decade ago.

The racial effects of resource disparities in higher education have worsened over the past few decades as public funding per student has declined. During the Great Recession, many states slashed their higher education budgets. For the most part, the funding has never been recovered. In 2018, state funding for two- and four-year public colleges was over $7 billion below what it was in 2008.16 As a result, tuition has skyrocketed, and academic and student support services have been cut. At the same time, federal support for low-income students has not kept pace with rising costs; the value of grant aid has diminished, requiring students to turn increasingly to loans.17 Notably, student debt was one of the few forms of unsecured credit to remain widely available during the Great Recession, when it became more difficult to open up a credit card or get a personal loan from a bank.18 For communities of color, where many families saw their net worth cut nearly in half during the recession, we have added high costs and debt to family balance sheets that have not recovered from the crisis over a decade ago.19

The Rise of Predatory Institutions

Widespread reliance on federally backed debt to finance higher education has also allowed a predatory industry of for-profit colleges to arise and specifically target students of color and other vulnerable populations. Government-backed student loans were opened up to students at for-profit colleges in 1972 and quickly became integral to these schools’ business models.20 For-profit schools began to market themselves to students of color specifically by helping them navigate the federal student loan system.21 The ensuing influx of capital led to an expansion of the industry in the 1980s that continued into the 1990s, when many for-profit colleges grew into large, publicly-traded companies.22 Between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of bachelor’s degrees coming from for-profit colleges increased sevenfold.23 Today, Black students making up 21 percent of students at for-profit colleges but only 13 percent of students at public colleges.24

For-profit schools’ ability to attract students was given a significant boost by the 2008 recession, when young people sought refuge from a weak labor market in degree programs. Indeed, the for-profit college industry was one of the few to remain profitable during the financial collapse.25 Greater demand for higher education is typical during a recession, but recent research argues that this trend was exacerbated in 2008 by a monopsonized labor market (i.e., a labor market dominated by too small a number of employers), in which employers could demand more credentials for the same jobs. This was particularly harmful for students of color, from whom employers already demanded higher credentials.26

The consequences of debt-financing higher education and other trends in higher education policies have not fallen equally on Black and white families. Inequality and discrimination determine how much wealth a family has available to pay for college, the type of college a student attends, how much debt they take on to attend school, and how easy or difficult it is to pay down debt. In the next section, we explore research from higher education and racial wealth gap experts and discuss how these researchers’ findings complicate the belief that student debt helps create equitable access to higher education.

Section 2: Racial Disparities Endemic to Students’ Educational Life Cycles: Recent Findings from Higher Education and Racial Wealth Gap Experts

Analyses from higher education researchers and racial wealth gap researchers often draw on different data sets and study different outcomes. When combined, these two bodies of work reveal racial disparities at every point in the educational and life cycles, making debt an inequitable means of financing education.

Those who study higher education tend to be engaged primarily with issues related to college access and completion, and to some extent the earnings outcomes of those programs as they relate to the debt incurred. In this regard, student debt policy is often evaluated in terms of whether it equalizes outcomes in access, persistence, and completion, and whether it diversifies enrollment at different institutions. For higher education researchers, outcome measures like loan defaults are often viewed in terms of what they reveal about the quality of an institution. Debt levels may also be measured, but typically as a “return on investment” for the earnings increase provided by the program.

In contrast, racial wealth gap experts are interested in student debt as one of many items on family balance sheets. Their work often asks what student loan debt and defaults tell us about market discrimination or overall asset building. They seek to understand what role student debt has played in creating a situation where the median white family has 10 times the wealth of the median Black family.27


Key Finding: In order to finance higher education, Black families—already disadvantaged by generational wealth disparities—rely more heavily on student debt, and on riskier forms of student debt, than white families do.

Robust research on student debt highlights a core challenge: Within today’s higher education finance structure, Black students would be less able to pay for—and enroll in—college without loans. But while loans are the key to access in the current system, they do not create equitable access. For many of the reasons discussed above, debt is a tool that borrowers of color must rely upon more often compared to white students, potentially putting them at greater financial risk. Thus, the research also makes clear that moving from a debt-financed system to a public investment-financed system would be a significant benefit to Black families.

For many of the reasons discussed above, debt is a tool that borrowers of color must rely upon more often compared to white students, potentially putting them at greater financial risk.

From the beginning of their time in the higher education system, Black students and white students have a different experience with student loans. Using longitudinal data disaggregated by race and released by the US Department of Education in 2017, Center for American Progress, Vice President for Postsecondary Education Ben Miller showed that 78 percent of Black students in the cohort that began college in 2003–2004 took out loans for their undergraduate education, compared to only 57 percent of white students.28 Furthermore, in a 2014 study for the Wisconsin Hope Lab, higher education researchers Sara Goldrick-Rab, Robert Kelchen, and Jason Houle found that while “Black students have always borrowed more than white students, for as long as the federal government has tracked these things,” “the growth in take-up rates of federal student loans between 1995–96 and 2011–12 was also greater for Black students than white students.”29 Black adults are almost twice as likely to have student debt than white adults.30 Research show differences in borrowing between low-income and moderate-income Black and white families,31 but interestingly, Addo and Houle’s study finds racial disparities in student loan debt highest among students with the wealthiest parents. Addo and Houle theorize that this is explained by the different forms in which Black and white families hold their wealth, suggesting that Black families hold what wealth they do have in less liquid forms than white families.32 For example, in the highest-income quintile, Black parents hold roughly 16 percent of their wealth in liquid financial assets, whereas white parents hold 21 percent of their wealth in this form.33 While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) takes into account liquidity of assets when calculating expected family contribution, fewer than 2 percent of students receive scholarships and grants fully covering the cost of their education.34 When families have to step in to make up the difference between expected family contribution and the total cost of school post-financial aid, white families are often able to cover the remainder with liquid assets, while Black families must often turn to loans.

Among the Wealthy, Black Families Hold their Wealth In Less Liquid Forms
Holdings Average Amount ($) % of wealth in type of holding
Home Equity $154,627 $92,555 $62,072 39% 31% 8%
Retirement Accounts $116,960 $91,915 $25,045 30% 31% -1%
Financial Assets $81,827 $46,579 $35,248 21% 16% 5%
College Savings Account (CSA) $12,323 $14,023 ($1,700) 3% 5% -2%
Other Assets $30,374 $51,655 ($21,281) 8% 17% -10%
disparities-in-student-loan-debt. ** Data on parents wealth in highest quintile group.

Although Black parents have less wealth with which to support their children, economists Darrick Hamilton and William Darity, Jr. have found that Black families are actually more likely to contribute financially to their children’s higher education at all income levels.35 This eagerness to support their children’s education in the face of unequal labor and credit markets has led many parents of Black students to take on more expensive and riskier forms of debt themselves. For example, a report by Rachel Fishman at the New America Foundation shows that low-income Black families are particularly likely to rely on Parent PLUS Loans, which have no limits up to the full cost of attendance—an amount that goes well beyond tuition to include living expenses. PLUS loans were designed to help middle- and upper- income borrowers, but data shows that among Black borrowers the largest share of borrowers taking out Plus loans have an adjusted gross income of under $30,000 a year.36 This is concerning because like other student loans, Parent PLUS Loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, but unlike student loans, they are not eligible for income-based repayment.37 While the literature on parental debt is limited, research confirms that Black parents are more likely to have child-related debt than white parents.38

Parent PLUS Loans are not the only risky form of student debt that Black families have turned to in order to fund higher education. Addo and Houle have also found that Black students and their families are more likely to take on private loans, which carry higher and more variable interest rates and have fewer consumer protections.39 Rajeev Darolia and Dubravaka Ritter, a visiting scholar and a fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia respectively, have shown that access to these loans increased when they became riskier for borrowers. They found that the passage of a 2005 law making private student loans non-dischargeable in bankruptcy led to an expansion in the private student loan market.40

In a report for the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Equity and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Hamilton, Darity, Jr., et al., report that when unsecured debt levels are compared across racial demographics and debt categories white families actually report holding slightly more unsecured debt (e.g., debt not backed by property or credit cards) than Black families do.41 But, when the unsecured debt is broken down by type, Black families hold significantly more student and medical debt than white families.

Key Finding: The gap in Black and white students’ degree attainment is higher than it was when the Higher Education Act was passed in 1965, which exacerbates the risks of student loans for Black students.

Black students take out more debt than their white counterparts but, as a result of a wide variety of factors, are less likely to finish their degrees. According to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the high dropout rate among Black college students “is partially due to the fact that 65 percent of African American college students are independent”—these students have to work full-time and care for families while trying to complete their degrees. Another compounding factor is the K-12 system. “Only 57 percent of Black students have access to the full range of math and science courses necessary for college readiness.”42 While the college enrollment gap has narrowed in recent years, the completion gap has not.43 The four-year degree attainment gap between Black and white students is greater today than it was when the Higher Education Act was passed in 1965.44

Using 2017 Department of Education data, Robert Kelchen examined Black and white graduation rates at 499 colleges with at least 50 Black and 50 white students in their graduating cohorts. He found that while 59 percent of white students at the schools graduated, only 45.5 percent of Black students did. This 13.5 percent gap was larger than the 7.8 percent gap between students with Pell Grants and those without.45 As discussed above, inequities in college preparation and admissions make Black students far more likely to enroll in less selective, and often under-resourced, colleges that have lower overall college graduation rates.46

The gap in graduation rates is paralleled among borrowers: 39 percent of Black borrowers drop out of college (compared to 29 percent of white borrowers),47 and those who do not complete their degree face steeper challenges with debt. Failing to complete a degree program is correlated with increased risk of default on student loans. Recent studies have found that 45 percent of students in the 2003–2004 cohort who dropped out of college and never attained a credential have defaulted on their student loans.48

Given the current debt-financed higher education system, a few studies have asked whether loans help or hurt Black students in completing degrees. Specifically, they have asked whether federal student loans (1) increase the number of Black students who complete degrees and (2) have similar effects on completion rates for Black and white students. The results of these studies have varied enough to be inconclusive. One study found that for Black students, taking out loans correlated with staying in school longer and having a better chance of completion; another found that student loans widened disparities in Black and white completion rates.49

Key Finding: The additional risks Black students face when taking on student debt are exacerbated by other disparities in the higher education system, including predatory for-profit colleges that engage in race-based targeting.

Research shows that racial disparities throughout the higher-education system shape how Black students experience student debt. For example, studies find that a disproportionate number of Black students attend for-profit colleges. This is the result of both active recruiting by for-profits and the ways in which for-profits deliberately exploit the failures of the nonprofit higher education system—from the byzantine financial aid processes to recruitment practices that rarely reach high schools where the majority of students are people of color—for their own gain.50

Students at for-profit colleges have some of the highest drop-out rates and worst experiences with student debt: 53 percent of borrowers at four-year for-profit programs drop out, including 65 percent of Black borrowers and 67 percent of Latinx borrowers; in contrast, only one in five borrowers at public four-year colleges and one in three borrowers at community colleges do not complete.51

Using a unique set of data matching federal student loan records to US Treasury data, economists Adam Looney and Constantine Yannelis argue that the locus of rising default rates include students at for-profit colleges, two-year schools and nonselective colleges, which encompasses a high number of students of color. These students, according to Looney and Yannelis, are “nontraditional,” in that they tend to be older, independent from their parents, and part-time.52 According to Looney and Yannelis’s data, “Of all the students who left school, started to repay federal loans in 2011, and had fallen into default by 2013, about 70 percent were non-traditional borrowers.” Looney and Yannelis observe that these “non-traditional borrowers” numbers exploded during the Great Recession, representing almost half of all new borrowers in the student loan market.53

In another study, sociologists Louise Seamster and Raphael Charron-Chenier find that the proportion of Black households taking on educational debt doubled between 2001 and 2013 and increased from 6 percent of total household debt burden for Black households to 20 percent (the percent of debt coming from student debt only doubled for white households, from 4 percent to 8 percent). The authors suggest that the growth of the for-profit sector and the growth in private lending during that period—rather than racial differences in income, assets, and family structure—may be drivers of this disproportionate increase.54 Seamster and Charron-Chenier argue that this growth is a form of “predatory inclusion,” whereby “members of a marginalized group are provided with access to a good, service, or opportunity from which they have historically been excluded but under conditions that jeopardize the benefits of access.”55

Key Finding: Due to lower family wealth and racial discrimination in the job market, Black students are far more likely than white students to experience negative financial events after graduating—including loan default, higher interest rate payments, and higher graduate school debt balances.

After they leave school—whether with a BA or not—Black student borrowers continue to have very different experiences with their loans than white student borrowers. A recent Demos paper showed that more than half of Black male borrowers who started college in 2003-2004 had defaulted on a loan within 12 years of starting school.56 At the Brookings Institution, Judith Scott-Clayton found that Black BA graduates “default at five times the rate of white BA graduates (21 versus 4 percent)” even after adjusting for differences in degree attainment, college GPA, post-college employment, and institution type. Strikingly, Black BA holders are “more likely to default than white dropouts.”57


Default is not the only measure of trouble for student borrowers. In a study for the Center for American Progress, Ben Miller showed that 12 years after entering college, the median Black borrower had made no progress in paying down their loans; in fact, the balance had actually increased. A Demos report by Mark Huelsman disaggregated this data by gender and found that in the 12 years after starting college, the typical Black female borrower’s student loan balances grew by 13 percent.58 In contrast, the median white borrower owed only 60–65 percent of their original loan at that point, and, 12 years out, Latinx borrowers who began school in 2003 owed only 80 percent of their original loans.59 Roosevelt Fellows Julie Margetta Morgan and Marshall Steinbaum showed distress in another way: the growing number of Black borrowers reporting having debt while making no payments. This subset of borrowers is either in default, delinquent, or using a forbearance or income-based repayment program. In all cases, they are not earning enough to pay off their debt.60

A discriminatory job market that reduces the impact of the college wage premium and lack of family liquidity both contribute to these unequal outcomes. In a recent paper, Seamster and Charron-Chenier point out that the student loan products that Black students and their families often rely on are made more dangerous by the fact that college is less likely to result in a high-wage job for Black Americans.61 At every degree level, Black graduates earn less on average and thus have less money with which to pay back their loans.62 In addition, a 2013 report by economist John Schmitt and Janelle Jones at the Center for Economic and Policy Research showed that 12.4 percent of Black college graduates between 22 and 27 were unemployed—twice the unemployment rate for college graduates as a whole. Furthermore, they concluded that over half of employed Black graduates were underemployed.63

When they do not earn enough to pay back their loans, Black graduates often do not have the family resources to fall back on that many white graduates in this position do. Recent research on inheritance and the racial wealth gap by researchers at the Brandeis’ Institute on Assets and Social Policy, Tatjana Meschede and Joanna Taylor, find that 13 percent of college-educated Black families receive an inheritance of over $10,000 compared to 41 percent of college-educated white families. Moreover, white families receiving above this inheritance on average receive more than three times what Black families do.64 Scott-Clayton’s analysis shows that student-family background, including parental wealth, can account for about half of the gap in Black-white default rates. To explain the rest, Scott-Clayton calls attention to differences in loan counseling and servicing. While there has not been significant research on this issue in relation to student loans, we know racial disparities in loan counseling impact other forms of consumer credit. We need significantly more research and data regarding how these factors affect student debt.65

Scott-Clayton has also conducted research showing that disparities in college graduates’ labor market outcomes may be responsible for Black graduates’ greater enrollment in subsequent education programs; this, in turn, leads to Black graduates carrying more debt. She shows that the debt gap widens quickly in the post-graduate years. While Black students start out with about $7,400 more in debt than their white counterparts, four years after graduation, that gap widens to $25,000. At that point, on average black graduates hold almost twice as much debt as their white counterparts. A quarter of this widening gap comes from differences in repayment. The majority of the remainder (45 percent) comes from different rates of borrowing for graduate school; Black college graduates are both more likely to attend graduate school and more likely to have to borrow to do so.66

Black college graduates are both more likely to attend graduate school and more likely to have to borrow to do so.

Both the number of Black students enrolled in graduate programs and the size of loans taken out to finance this graduate education have risen in recent years. Forty-seven percent of Black students who received a BA in 2008 enrolled in graduate degree programs within four years, compared to 38 percent of white 2008 BA recipients. In 1993, 38 percent of black BA holders and 35 percent of white BA holders enrolled in graduate school, a much narrower gap.67 The loan volume for Black graduate students has also skyrocketed. Robert Kelchen showed that between 2000 and 2016, the percentage of Black graduate students with over $100,000 in debt went from between 1 and 2 percent to roughly 30 percent, the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups.68

Scott-Clayton’s research shows that one-quarter of Black graduate-school enrollees attend for-profit institutions (as opposed to 9 percent of white graduate students)—the only sector that has seen differential growth by race, and a sector that, as Looney’s research shows, produces worse outcomes.69 And according to the American Council on Education, nearly half of all Black students pursuing doctoral study are enrolled in for-profit colleges, with an average debt of over $128,000.70

Key Finding: The disproportionate burden of student debt on Black families perpetuates racial wealth inequalities.

Though policymakers often tout education as a key to reducing inequality, research by William Darity, Jr. and Darrick Hamilton shows that increased education does not close the racial wealth gap. The average Black family whose head-of-household has a college diploma has less wealth than a white family whose dominant earner did not finish high school. Only Black families whose predominant earner has post-graduate education have wealth levels comparable to white households headed by someone with partial college education.71


The wealth gap is magnified for women of color. The Insight Center’s Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Anne Price show that college also fails to provide the same wealth gains to Black women that it does to white women. Single Black women in their 30s with a college degree average $0 in wealth (having spent the past decade $11,000 in debt on average).72 Meanwhile, median wealth for white women in their 30s with a college degree is $7,500.73 The difference in wealth between Black college graduates and white high-school dropouts is a striking sign that the debt-financed higher education system may actually be contributing to the racial wealth gap.

Student debt accounts for a measurable minority of the wealth gap between Black and white young adults.74 Addo and Houle find that the racial wealth gap begins to emerge as early as age 25 and then continues to widen.75 They conclude that “student loan debt may be a new mechanism by which racial economic disparities are inherited across generations.”76 In a recent paper, economists Venoo Kakar, Gerald Daniels Jr., and Olga Petrovska find that “differences in student loan use account for 5 percent of the mean wealth gap between [all] Black and white households.” The authors conclude that student debt has its greatest adverse impact on the Black-white wealth gap at the median of the wealth distribution.77 Researchers at Brandeis’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy, Thomas Shapiro, Tatjiana Meschde, and Sam Osoro, reach a similar conclusion. They find that a college degree yields 5 percent more wealth for white families than for Black families, positing it is likely due to unequal access to quality K–12 education and to disparate reliance on student debt.78

The ways in which student debt can perpetuate the racial wealth gap mean that current loan policies do not sufficiently account for all outcomes related to financial security. Students and their families too often get stuck in a cycle where lack of wealth leads them to turn to debt-financing for higher education, which in turn keeps them from building wealth after they leave school.


Many Americans now expect to take out loans to finance their higher education. This was not inevitable; rather, it is the result of policy choices. Those choices were made in the context of a broader education system and economy in which Black students’ and families’ experiences are defined by structural racism. For many years, however, the racial segregation and discrimination that determine Black students’ access to higher education and post-school outcomes went largely unacknowledged by policymakers, who instead built policies based on race-blind or race-neutral assumptions about the effects of a debt-financed higher education system. As a result, the findings discussed in this report show that student debt is both more necessary and riskier for Black families than for white families; and, therefore, perpetuate racial wealth inequality. At a moment when policymakers are reconsidering the structure of higher education, we cannot make the same mistake of ignoring the structural racism embedded in the American higher education system and economy at large.

For many years the racial segregation and discrimination that determine Black students’ access to higher education and post-school outcomes went largely unacknowledged by policymakers, who instead built policies based on race-blind or race-neutral assumptions about the effects of a debt-financed higher education system.

As politicians come forward with new proposals to reform the American higher education system, we should look for policies that seek to decrease racial disparities throughout the system. Some commentators have already begun to do this—debating whether universal debt cancellation or bold and targeted debt relief does more to narrow the racial wealth gap.79 While the racial wealth gap is an incredibly important signal on the overall fairness and health of our economy, the research reviewed in this paper should encourage us to look beyond any single measure of inequality and evaluate how any free college and/or student debt cancellation proposal will affect each point in the cycle of racial inequality and higher education access.

There are some concrete actions that can help narrow the inequitable effects of our current higher education system. For example, policymakers could:

  • Bring down the cost of college to reduce reliance on debt: When the federal loan and grant system was created in the 1960s, college cost a fraction of what it does today. Average tuition at a public institution has risen 12-fold since 1978.80 Reducing the cost of college would allow our higher education finance system to function more like it was originally intended.
  • Take steps to dismantle segregation in enrollment and racial disparities in completion rates.
  • Crack down on predatory, for-profit schools that have historically preyed on students of color.
  • Alleviate the burden of existing student debt: Cancelling at least some would automatically build wealth for Black families.

Policymakers also need to rethink our higher education system more broadly. As long as racism pervades the economy and access to a large portion of the higher education system is mediated through high levels of individual loans, neither access to higher education, nor the returns to a degree or credential, will be equitable. To build a higher education system that fosters the mobility and equality of progressive ideals, policy debates must come together to address the unequal risks that our economy creates for Black families. Given its economic and social value, higher education should be seen as a public good, and we must recognize that public investment can build a dynamic, well-rounded, innovative population that benefits all of us. A comprehensive, race-conscious higher education policy cannot be complete without a universally accessible, public higher education system.

Higher education policy alone cannot close the racial wealth gap. Narrowing racial wealth inequalities requires a range of economic policies to help Black families build wealth, including reassessing how we finance higher education. It is vital that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners appreciate the ways in which racial inequality in our economy shows up in the higher education system—and just as vital that those focused on reducing and eliminating racial wealth inequality help guide higher education policy to help achieve that goal.


The authors thank Julie Margetta Morgan, Andrea Flynn, and Anne Price for their comments and insight. Roosevelt staff Kendra Bozarth, Matthew Hughes, and Victoria Streker all contributed to this project, as did Alex Edwards and Peter Granville at The Century Foundation.

Download Appendixes Here


  1. Zack Friedman, “Student Loan Debt Statistics in 2019: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis,” 25 February 2019, Forbes
  2. Venoo Kakar, Gerald Eric Daniels, Jr., and Olga Petrovska, “Does Student Loan Debt Contribute to Racial Wealth Gaps? A Decomposition Analysis,” 21 November 2018, Journal of Consumer Affairs (forthcoming),
  3. Andrea Flynn, et al., “Rewrite the Racial Rules: Building an Inclusive American Economy,” June 2016, The Roosevelt Institute,
  4. The Roosevelt Institute’s “Rewrite the Racial Rules: Building an Inclusive American Economy” explores this system, reporting that the average Black K–12 student attends a school that is 49 percent Black, and that “48 percent of all Black children attended high-poverty schools, as compared to only 8 percent of white children” (Flynn, et al. p. 35; see also: Richard D. Kahlenberg, Halley Potter, and Kimberly Quick, “A Bold Agenda for School Integration,” 8 April 2019, The Century Foundation,
  5. Flynn, et al., p. 38-41.
  6. In 2016–2017, the four-year graduation rate for white students (89 percent) was 11 percent higher than it was for Black students (“Public High School Graduation Rates,” May 2019, National Center for Education Statistics,
  7. Edwin H. Litolff, III, “Higher Education Desegregation: An Analysis of State Efforts in Systems Formerly Operating Segregated Systems of Higher Education,” 2007, Louisiana State University Doctoral Dissertations, p. 13,
  8. Litolff, p. 15.
  9. Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), p. 128-132.
  10. Katznelson, 132. In 1946, in Southern states 51 percent of students at white higher education institutions were veterans, but at Black institutions, only 30 percent of students were veterans.
  11. Sara Garcia, “Gaps in College Spending Shortchange Students of Color,” 5 April 2018, Center for American Progress,
  12. Ivory A. Toldson, “The Funding Gap between Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Traditionally White Institutions Needs to be Addressed,” The Journal of Negro Education 85, no. 2 (Spring 2016),
  13. Krystal L. Williams and BreAnna L. Davis, “Public and Private Investments and Divestments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” January 2019, American Council on Education & UNCF Issue Brief, p. 3,
  14. Morehouse College—a private HBCU—has an endowment of about $66,000 per student compared to $340,000 per student at Cornell University (Dylan Matthews, “Morehouse’s Students Loan Forgiveness Is an Incredibly Useful Economic Experiment,” 20 May 2019, Vox,; Darrick Hamilton, et al, “Still We Rise: The Continuing Case for America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” 9 November 2015, The American Prospect
  15. Monica Anderson, “A Look at Historically Black Colleges and Universities as Howard Turns 150,” 28 February 2017, Pew Research Center: Fact Tank,; Krystal L. Williams and BreAnna L. Davis, “Public and Private Investments and Divestments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” p. 2.
  16. Michael Mitchell, “By Disinvesting in Higher Education, States Contributing to Affordability Crisis,” 4 October 2018, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Off the Charts,
  17. Mark Huelsman, “Debt to Society: The Case for Bold, Equitable Student Loan Cancellation and Reform,” 6 June 2019, Demos,
  19. Aissa Canchola and Seth Frotman, “The Significant Impact of Student Debt on Communities of Color,” 15 September 2016, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,
  20. Robert Shireman, “The For-Profit College Story: Scandal, Regulate, Forget, Repeat,” 24 January 2017, The Century Foundation,; James Surowiecki, “The Rise and Fall of For-Profit Schools,” 2 November 2015, The New Yorker,
  21. Tressie McMillan Cottom, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy (New York: The New Press, 2017), 82; Darrick Hamilton and William A. Darity, Jr. “The Political Economy of Education,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review 99, no. 1 (First Quarter 2017),
  22. Today, almost 74 percent of revenues at for-profit, Title IV-eligible schools come from federal student aid (William Beaver, “The Rise and Fall of For-Profit Higher Education,” January-February 2017, American Association of University Professors,; Vivien Lee and Adam Looney, “Understanding the 90/10 Rule: How Reliant are Public, Private, and For-Profit Institutions on Federal Aid,” January 2019, The Brookings Institution,; David J. Denning, Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz, “The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators, December 2011, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Papers, p. 9,
  23. Surowiecki, “The Rise and Fall of For-Profit Schools.”
  24. For Profit Colleges by the Numbers,” February 29018, Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment,”
  25. Mark Huelsman, “Betrayers of the American Dream: How Sleazy For-Profit Colleges Disproportionately Target Black Students,” 12 July 2015, The American Prospect
  26. Julie Margetta Morgan and Marshall Steinbaum, “The Student Debt Crisis, Labor Market Credentialization, and Racial Inequality: How the Current Student Debate Gets the Economics Wrong,” 16 October 2018, Roosevelt Institute,; Alicia Sasser Modestino, Daniel Shoag, and Joshua Ballance, “Upskilling: Do Employers Demand Greater Skill When Workers Are Plentiful?” 4 June 2019, MIT Press Journals
  27. Lisa J. Detting, et al, “Recent Trends in Wealth-Holding by Race and Ethnicity: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances,” 27 September 2017, FEDS Notes,
  28. Ben Miller, “New Federal Data Show a Student Loan Crisis for African American Borrowers,” 16 October 2017, Center for American Progress,
  29. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Robert Kelchen, Jason Houle, “The Color of Student Debt: Implications of Federal Loan Program Reforms for Black Students and Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” 2 September 2014, Wisconsin Hope Lab, p. 12,
  30. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Robert Kelchen, Jason Houle, “The Color of Student Debt: Implications of Federal Loan Program Reforms for Black Students and Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” p. 11. [/note
    Table 1
    Percentage of Students Who Took Out Federal Loans for Undergraduate Education Within 12 Years of Entering
    Total Public four-year institution Private non-profit four-year institution Public two-year institution Private for-profit institution
    White 57 60 66 46 90
    Black or African American 78 87 82 62 95
    Hispanic or Latino 58 65 74 40 84
    All Students 60 62 68 48 89
    Note: Black students borrow to attend college much more often than their white counterparts do.

    Source: Center for American Progress *The Center for American Progress did not report figures for Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or other race or ethic groups.

    Sociologists Fenaba Addo and Jason Houle find that differences in parental wealth are a key factor in driving the greater use of student loans to finance education by Black students (and the greater difficulty Black students have paying off their loans, discussed later).[note] As will be discussed later in the paper, differences in enrollment patterns—and particularly the disproportionate concentration of Black students at for-profit schools—also play a key role in differences in borrowing levels by Black and white students (Fenaba Addo, Jason Houle, and Daniel Simon, “Young Black and (Still) in the Red: Parental Wealth, Race, and Student Loan Debt,” Race and Social Problems 8, no 1 (2016)

  31. Michal Gristein-Weiss, et al., “Racial Disparities in Education Debt Burden Among Low- and Moderate- Income Households,” Children and Youth Services Review 65, June 2016,
  32. Fenaba Addo, Jason Houle, and Daniel Simon, “Young Black and (Still) in the Red: Parental Wealth, Race, and Student Loan Debt.”
  33. Fenaba Addo, “Parents’ Wealth Helps Explain Racial Disparities in Student Loan Debt,” 29 March 2019, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis,
  34. Michelle Singletary, “Your Child Probably Won’t Get a Full Ride to College,” 16 October 2019, The Washington Post
  35. William Darity, Jr, et al, “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap,” April 2018, Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Insight Center for Community Economic Development,; Yunju Nam, et al., “Bootstraps are for Black Kids: Race, Wealth and the Impact of Intergenerational Transfers on Adult Outcomes,” September 2015, Insight Center for Community and Economic Development,
  36. Rachel Fishman, “The Wealth Gap Plus: How Federal Loans Exacerbate Inequality for Black Families,” May 2018, New America
  37. The extent to which Black parents have come to rely on Parent PLUS Loans was revealed in 2012 when the Department of Education tried to tighten access to the Parent PLUS Loan program. As we have seen, HBCUs are historically underfunded and cater to students with less access to funding. These students and their parents rely heavily on debt to make up for what they and their schools lack in wealth. When the Parent PLUS Loan program tightened their lending requirements, HBCUs found their revenue stream dramatically cut—so much so that they successfully lobbied to reverse the policy changes and ensure that families with bad credit records still had access to PLUS loans. This activism helped maintain the availability of a program that gives students from low-income families access to higher education but did nothing to reduce the risks the program poses for these families (Fishman, “The Wealth Gap Plus”).
  38. Katrina Walsemann and Jennifer Ailshire, “Student Debt Spans Generations: Characteristics of Parents Who Borrow to Pay for Their Children’s College Education,” The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 72 (6), November 2017: 1084–1089.
  39. Jason Houle and Fenaba Addo, “Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class,” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity (2018),
  40. Dubravka Ritter and Rajeev Darolia, “Working Paper No. 17-38: Strategic Default Among Private Student Loan Debtors: Evidence from Bankruptcy Reform,” 2017, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia,
  41. William Darity, Jr, et al., “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap.”
  42. Brian Bridges, “African Americans and College Education by the Numbers,” 29 November 2018, UNCF,
  43. Kavya Vaghul and Marshall Steinbaum, “How the Student Debt Crisis Affects African Americans and Latinos,” 17 February 2016, Washington Center for Equitable Growth,
  44. “Growing Gaps in College-Attainment Rates,” 2 May 2017, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: On the Economy Blog,
  45. Robert Kelchen, “A Look at Pell Grant Recipients’ Graduation Rates,” 25 October 2017, Brookings: Brown Center Chalkboard,; Robert Kelchen, “Downloadable Dataset of Pell Recipient Graduation Rates,” 27 October 2017,,
  46. Rachel Baker, Daniel Klasik, Sean F. Reardon, “Race and Stratification in College Enrollment Over Time,” 28 January 2018, AREA Open,
  47. Mark Huelsman, “The Racial and Class Bias Behind the ‘New Normal’ of Student Borrowing,” Demos (2015)
  48. Jennie H. Woo, et al., “Repayment of Student Loans as of 2015 Among 1995-96 and 2003-04 First Time Beginning Students,” October 2017, U.S. Department of Education, NCES 2018-410,
  49. Brandon Jackson and John Reynolds, “The Price of Opportunity: Race, Student Loan Debt, and College Achievement,” 2013, Florida State University Libraries, Department of Sociology, Faculty Publications,; Dongbin Kim, “The Effects of Loans on Students’ Degree Attainment: Differences by Student and Institutional Characteristics,” Harvard Educational Review 77, no. 1 (Spring 2007),
  50. Cottom, Lower Ed, p. 21-22 , 82-83, 124-131; Genevieve Bonadies, et al., “For-Profit School’s Predatory Practices and Students of Color: A Mission to Enroll Rather than Educate,” 30 July 2018, Harvard Law Review Blog,
  51. Huelsman, “Betrayers of the American Dream
  52. Adam Looney and Constantine Yannelis, “A Crisis in Student Loans? How Changes in the Characteristics of Borrowers and in the Institutions they Attended Contributed to Rising Loan Defaults,” Fall 2015, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity,, p. 1.
  53. Looney and Yannelis, “A Crisis in Student Loans?”, p.2.
  54. Louise Seamster and Raphael Charon-Chenier, “Predatory Inclusion and Education Debt: Rethinking the Racial Wealth Gap,” Social Currents 4, no. 3 (2017),
  55. Seamster and Charon-Chenier, “Predatory Inclusion and Education Debt.”
  56. Huelsman, “Debt to Society.”
  57. Judith Scott-Clayton, “What Accounts for Gaps in Student Loan Default and What Happens After,” 2018, Economic Studies at Brookings,
  58. Huelsman, “Debt to Society.”
  59. Miller, “New Federal Data Show a Student Loan Crisis for African American Borrowers,” 16.
  60. Margetta Morgan and Steinbaum, “The Student Debt Crisis, Labor Market Credentialization, and Racial Inequality: How the Current Student Debate Gets the Economics Wrong,” p. 22.
  61. Seamster and Charon-Chenier, “Predatory Inclusion and Education Debt,” p. 200.
  62. “Median Weekly Earnings by Educational Attainment in 2014,” 23 January 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Economics Daily,
  63. Janelle Jones and John Schmitt, “A College Degree is No Guarantee,” May 2014, Center for Economic and Policy Research,
  64. Adam Harris, “White College Graduates are Doing Great with their Parents Money,” 20 July 2018, The Atlantic
  65. Scott-Clayton, “What Accounts for Gaps in Student Loan Default and What Happens After
  66. Judith Scott-Clayton and Jing Li, “Black-White Disparity in Student Loan Debt More than Triples After Graduation,” 20 October 2016, Brookings,
  67. Scott-Clayton and Li, “Black-White Disparity in Student Loan Debt More than Triples After Graduation.”
  68. Robert Kelchen, “Examining Trends in Graduate Student Debt by Race and Ethnicity,” 15 May 2018,,
  69. Scott-Clayton and Li, “Black-White Disparity in Student Loan Debt More than Triples After Graduation.”
  70. Lorelle L. Espinosa, et al., “Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education: A Status Report,” 2019, American Council on Education,
  71. William Darity, Jr, et al, “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap”; Darrick Hamilton, et al, “Umbrellas Don’t Make it Rain: Why Studying and Working Hard Isn’t Enough for Black Americans,” April 2015, The New School, Duke Center for Social Equity, Insight Center for Community and Economic Development,
  72. Jhumpa Bhattacharya, et al. “Women, Race & Wealth,” January 2017, Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Insight Center for Community Economic Development,
  73. Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Anne Price, Fenaba Addo, “Clipped Wings: Closing the Wealth Gap for Millennial Women,” 2019, Asset Funders Network,
  74. Houle and Addo, “Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class.”
  75. Addo, “Parents’ Wealth Helps Explain Racial Disparities in Student Loan Debt.”
  76. Addo, Houle, and Simon, “Young Black and (Still) in the Red: Parental Wealth, Race, and Student Loan Debt.”
  77. Kakar, Gerald Eric Daniels, Jr., and Olga Petrovska, “Does Student Loan Debt Contribute to Racial Wealth Gaps? A Decomposition Analysis.”
  78. Thomas Shapiro, Tatjana Meschede, Sam Osro, “The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap,: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide, February 2013, Institute on Assets and Social Policy,
  79. Marshall Steinbaum, “Student Debt and Racial Wealth Inequality,” 7 August 2019, Jain Family Institute,; Louise Seamster, “How Should We Measure the Racial Wealth Gap? Relative vs. Absolute Gaps in the Student Debt Forgiveness Debate,” 27 July 2019, Scatterplot,
  80. Michelle Jamrisko and Ilan Kolet, “Cost of College Degree in U.S. Soars 12 Fold: Chart of the Day,” 15 August 2012, Bloomberg

How the Biden Administration Can Free Americans from Student Debt

 Author :    Astra Taylor                Published: 11/23/2020              The New Yorker


President Joe Biden

Joe Biden, who as a senator represented Delaware, the credit-card capital of the world, will need to be pushed to stand up for debtors.Photograph by Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

On September 2nd, the anthropologist and activist David Graeber died unexpectedly, while on holiday in Venice. David, who was my friend and collaborator for more than a decade, was best known for his groundbreaking study “Debt: The First 5,000 Years,” from 2011. The book opened up a vibrant and ongoing conversation about the evolution of our economic system by challenging conventional accounts of the origins of money and markets; relationships of credit and debt, he showed, preceded the development of coinage and cash. It also influenced a movement for debt cancellation, which appears poised on the brink of a significant victory that could improve untold millions of lives. I only wish my friend could be around to see it.

“Debt” ’s publication was perfectly timed to lend scholarly legitimacy to the frustration that fuelled Occupy Wall Street, an uprising David helped catalyze. He recruited me to the effort, and then invited me to join an offshoot focussed on debt resistance. One meeting led to another, and then another. We worked together on a range of experiments, including a radical financial-literacy guide called “The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual” and the Rolling Jubilee, an initiative that bought up and erased nearly thirty-two million dollars of medical and tuition debt belonging to thousands of people. That set the stage for the Debt Collective, a union for debtors, which I helped found. In 2015, the Debt Collective organized a student-debt strike of people who had borrowed money to attend for-profit colleges, ultimately helping to eliminate more than a billion dollars of student debt through a range of direct action and legal strategies (and causing the billionaire Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos what she described as “extreme displeasure.”)

For the past five years, the Debt Collective has been working to let the world know that any American President, should they desire, can make every penny of federal student debt disappear without consulting Congress (and regardless of Mitch McConnell’s objections). Based on legal research, the Debt Collective co-founder Luke Herrine and Harvard Law School’s Eileen Connor argue that Congress granted legal authority to the head of the Department of Education to extinguish federal student-loan debt, an action called “compromise and settlement,” in 1965. All a President has to do is instruct the Education Secretary to use this authority to cancel all federal student debt. Our public-education campaign has caught on. In September, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer offered a Senate Resolution urging the incoming President to cancel up to fifty thousand dollars in student loans for every borrower using compromise-and-settlement authority. Explaining her rationale, Warren told me, over e-mail, that getting rid of student debt “would give a big, consumer-driven boost to our economy and even help close the Black-white wealth gap.”

As the 2020 Presidential race wore on, Joe Biden shifted his position on the issue of debt forgiveness, proposing to “forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000.” (The government would make monthly payments to itself, in lieu of the borrower.) Biden also promised to “immediately cancel a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person,” as part of a coronavirus response. Within hours of the media declaring Biden triumphant over Donald Trump, social media resounded with discussion of the President-elect’s ability to eliminate student loans using executive authority. “Joe Biden embraced progressive demands for student debt cancellation after he won the Democratic nomination,” Bloomberg reported. “Whether he agrees to use executive authority to grant loan relief will test how much influence progressives hold in his administration.”

Biden will be taking office amid a daunting public-health and economic crisis; a loudening chorus of experts and elected officials believe that a more ambitious approach to debt relief is needed to stem the suffering. The Debt Collective has long promoted a sweeping jubilee, a mass cancellation of debts, including but not limited to the abolition of all federal student debt. Without offering precise sums, a recent white paper from the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, advocates for the cancellation of student, housing, and medical debt as part of a broader covid-recovery plan. In Congress, the freshman representatives known as the Squad have lifted up grassroots demands to cancel student loans, back rent, and mortgage payments. Debt relief, Representative Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, told me, makes sound economic sense, given that working families would put freed-up money “right back into communities, right back into the economy.” Pressley added, “We have to bail out the American people.”

Before the pandemic, American indebtedness was breaking records: last year, total household debt in the United States surpassed fourteen trillion dollars; total student-loan debt alone surpassed $1.6 trillion. More than a million people defaulted on their federal educational loans every year between 2015 and 2019. Experts have bemoaned the consequences of mass insolvency, which suppresses demand for other goods and services, impeding homeownership and entrepreneurship and increasing household insecurity. There are physical and psychological consequences, too. Being behind on bills stresses body and mind, which is exacerbated by the fact that debtors tend to delay or avoid seeking medical care, fearful of the cost. Data from the credit bureau Experian from December, 2016, showed that the average American died sixty-two thousand dollars in arrears.

With Trump’s freeze on student-loan payments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s halt on evictions both set to expire on December 31st, a debt-addled humanitarian disaster looms. Countless families currently teetering on the edge of financial collapse will be pushed over the brink. People spent thirty per cent of their stimulus checks to service debts, and as back rent piles up some forty million households may soon face homelessness. “Without immediate and effective stabilization, we could see long-term debt and bankruptcy spirals—starting with middle- and low-income Americans,” the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz recently warned. Of course, not all debtors are equally desperate; some are treated better than others. The persistence of the racial wealth gap and predatory lending practices means that Black and Latinx communities are more economically precarious and indebted than their white counterparts. Black women are the most burdened by student-loan debt and often have to resort to payday loans with onerous terms. Without an intervention, the same communities disproportionately devastated by covid-19 will be dealt an economic death blow, compounding the damage wrought by the mortgage crisis. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, between 2005 and 2009, the median wealth among Black and Latinx households fell by more than fifty per cent.

Debt cancellation is an essential component of any sensible response to this worsening disaster, especially one attuned to questions of racial justice. A sense of justice, however, rarely guides our financial agreements. As David observed in “Debt,” money has the capacity “to turn mor­ality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic—and by doing so, to justify things that would otherwise seem outrageous or obscene.” Think of the Florida law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature last year, and recently upheld by a federal appeals court, which requires former felons to fully pay back their court fines and fees in order to vote; the federal government’s habit of garnishing Social Security payments if recipients have defaulted on their federal student loans; or the fact that some small children are denied meals by public schools because their families owe lunch debt. We rarely question the moral logic that enables such obscenities—logic that views the debtors as culpable, even criminal, and thus deserving of punishment. The German word “Schuld,” David was fond of pointing out, means both debt and guilt.

Debt is a power relationship built on the pretense of equality. In theory, a debtor and creditor enter into a contract on a level playing field and with fair terms; in reality, debts are often incurred under conditions of duress. Right now, countless people are putting expenses on credit cards or taking out high-interest payday loans, because they’ve lost their jobs or unemployment benefits have dried up (or never came through). As the Debt Collective writes in its new manifesto, “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition,” “Most people are not in debt because they live beyond their means; they are in debt because they have been denied the means to live.” In countries with universal health care, individual medical debt is rare; in the U.S., it is a leading cause of poverty and the main catalyst for bankruptcy. In some cases, failure to appear in court for unpaid medical debts lands people in jail. No one chooses to get sick, so why is medical debt something people should feel bad about, let alone be penalized or incarcerated for? This is why, following David’s lead, the Debt Collective rejects the language of debt “forgiveness”—which implies a blameworthy borrower and a beneficent creditor—in favor of challenging the underlying morality of a system in which millions must take on debt in order to survive.

In modern economic life, you can count on moral judgment being inconsistently applied. There is, as Pressley told me, “a glaring double standard when it comes to consumer versus corporate debtors.” It is a double standard perfectly captured in a popular meme that invites people to list things that are considered “classy” if an individual is rich and “trashy” if that person is poor. Bankruptcy is frequently mentioned, along with being bilingual and having someone else raise your kids. The more privileged you are, the more debt can work to your advantage, and the same can hold true for defaulting. That’s certainly the case for Donald Trump, who has left a trail of corporate bankruptcies in his wake and is reportedly on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

High levels of corporate debt are, we mustn’t forget, one reason we are in this mess. For more than a decade, companies took advantage of low interest rates and gorged themselves on credit, often using the funds to buy back stock and push out dividends to shareholders, rather than raising employee wages or saving for a rainy day. These overleveraged companies made our economy more vulnerable to the coronavirus shock. And yet their behavior is being rewarded. In the spring, the Federal Reserve decided to purchase corporate debt, including the junk bonds, or riskier debt, issued by companies whose investment ratings had plummeted because of the pandemic—the so-called fallen angels. Regular debtors, in contrast, are rarely shown such charity; instead of being heralded as divine, they are dubbed deadbeats.

By offering more support to corporate borrowers and lenders, the Fed bolstered the bond market in an unprecedented way, and encouraged more of the bad behavior that got us here, potentially setting the stage for a bigger disaster. The world’s largest companies rushed to take advantage of the new arrangement, with entities including Alphabet and Apple (which, in August, became the first company to be valued at more than two trillion dollars) borrowing billions at preposterously low rates. “Junk” debt also got a boost, with some companies that are seen as risky investments now able to pay out less than three per cent on their bonds, Alexis Goldstein, a senior policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform, told me. For corporations, we have seen a remarkable lowering of the price to borrow money, but we have not seen anything equivalent for people at the margins of our financial markets—or some municipalities in desperate need of funds. “We’ve seen lots of people being able to refinance their homes, but those are people who tend to be in a good financial position,” Goldstein explained; they own their homes instead of renting, and have the stable incomes required to qualify for low rates. “People that need a payday loan are not seeing lower rates of payday loans. People who are having to use their credit cards to avoid eviction, the people who are at the most risk of financial ruin right now, are not seeing the lowering of interest rates.” If you look at your credit-card information, you’ll find that your interest rate is likely not three per cent.

The Fed soothed skittish markets, but at what cost? There has been very little conditionality attached to its acquisition of corporate debt, which means that even though Wall Street was buoyed, no guaranteed benefits trickled down to workers in need. The cares Act granted the Fed discretionary authority to “require corporations receiving rescue aid to retain jobs, maintain collective bargaining agreements, prohibit dividends and stock buybacks, and limit executive compensation,” Amanda Fischer, of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, has written. But the Fed did not impose such conditions on corporate borrowers. Instead, the Fed bought the corporate debt of companies such as Tyson Foods, a meat-processing company that has become infamous for its covid-19 outbreaks, and ExxonMobil, which chose to lay off workers instead of reducing payouts to shareholders. These actions create the true moral hazard where debt is concerned, insulating businesses from the downsides of their recklessness by insuring the public picks up the tab.

The question of whether debts must be repaid is always also a question of who will pay them. Will creditors and landlords at the top of the income scale be able to collect in full, or will debtors and renters at the bottom earn a reprieve? In “Debt,” David recounts that, in the ancient world, bad harvests and warfare repeatedly pushed farmers into debt peonage, or even debt slavery, threatening social stability. To prevent total calamity, Sumerian and Babylonian kings announced periodic amnesties. “In Sumeria, these were called ‘declarations of freedom,’ ” David wrote, noting that the “Sumerian word amargi, the first recorded word for ‘freedom’ in any known human language, literally means ‘return to mother’—since this is what freed debt-peons were finally allowed to do.” The economist Michael Hudson points to the Code of Hammurabi, dating to 1750 B.C., which aimed to restore economic normalcy after major disruptions: the forty-eighth law proclaims “a debt and tax amnesty for cultivators if Adad the Storm God had flooded their fields, or if their crops failed as a result of pests or drought.”

As the historical record shows, debt relief is not a utopian demand. In the modern era, more than a million loans were granted by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation to rescue homeowners with distressed mortgages during the Great Depression. Today, a full student-debt jubilee would be an obvious place to start. Eileen Connor, of Harvard Law School, is unequivocal about President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to eliminate all student debt by executive action: “The legal authority is there. And the moral justification is there, too.” She pointed to the “growing recognition that student-loan debt entrenches structural inequalities, especially racial inequality.” Research shows that a full student-debt jubilee would help close the racial wealth gap, because the burden of student debt falls disproportionately on borrowers of color. (A 2019 study reported that, twenty years after starting college, the median white student owes six per cent of their cumulative federal student loans, or around a thousand dollars, while the median Black student still owes ninety-five per cent, or around eighteen thousand five hundred dollars.) There are also urgent economic incentives for widespread debt relief. Full student-debt cancellation, a 2018 analysis estimated, could potentially boost the economy by as much as a hundred and eight billion dollars a year, with the benefits reaching far beyond the nearly forty-five million people directly burdened by student loans.

A growing number of economists argue that we can’t afford not to cancel debt. As the title of a Washington Post op-ed by Hudson, in March, bluntly put it, “A debt jubilee is the only way to avoid a depression.” Richard Vague, the secretary of banking and securities for the state of Pennsylvania, recently laid out concrete proposals to restructure mortgage debt, student loans, health-care debt, and small-business loans. “Whether called ‘restructuring,’ ‘forgiveness,’ or ‘jubilee,’ ” Vague writes, “it is the only feasible way to reduce private sector debt when it accumulates to crushing levels in societies, and the only way to do so without severely damaging the economy.”

Biden—a former senator from Delaware, the credit-card capital of the world, and a driving force behind a controversial 2005 bill that stripped student borrowers of bankruptcy protections—will need to be pushed to stand up for debtors. Grassroots pressure is building to that end. In June, the Movement for Black Lives called for the absolution of student loans, medical debt, mortgage payments and rent; tenant unions across the country are rallying to cancel rent. In July, the Poor People’s Campaign, co-chaired by the Reverend Dr. William Barber and the Reverend Liz Theoharis, issued a “Jubilee Platform” that includes various forms of debt cancellation. On the first day of the new Democratic Administration, the Debt Collective will launch a student-loan strike, the Biden Jubilee 100, building on the success of our previous strike campaign and demanding that the President immediately abolish all federal student-loan debt using compromise-and-settlement authority. Why should ordinary people honor their debts when the rich walk away from theirs without remorse? If corporations are people, why would they be more entitled to debt cancellation? Instead of sinking and struggling alone and ashamed, debtors are beginning to take a page out of the creditors’ playbook and lobby for their shared interests, in order to challenge the phony morality that upholds an untenable status quo.

The month before David Graeber died, I reread “Debt,” in anticipation of a dialogue that we had planned to record and publish in September. This time, I found the uncompromising, radical vision at its center even more striking. “Debt” does more than challenge the reader to rethink the old shibboleth that all debts must be repaid—it questions the very notion of debt itself.

“On one level the difference between an obligation and a debt is simple and obvious,” David writes. “A debt is the obligation to pay a certain sum of money. As a result, a debt, unlike any other form of obligation, can be precisely quantified. This allows debts to become simple, cold, and impersonal—which, in turn, allows them to be transferable.” Although obligations to family and friends are nontransferable, a loan at a set interest rate is an asset that can be securitized and traded. By adhering to the logic of compound interest, debt crowds out more indefinite obligations, commitments that can’t be paid back in cash and can only be met with respect, gratitude, generosity, and care. Many of us feel indebted to our parents, for example, but that doesn’t mean we can write them a check as payback for bringing us into the world.

We are all, David reminds us, caught up in relationships in which the balance sheet is never wholly settled—simultaneously debtors and creditors, in countless small exchanges. Our everyday language reveals this: the English “much obliged” and the Portuguese “obrigado” mean “I am in your debt,” while the French “de rien” and Spanish “de nada” assure others that it is nothing. To say “my pleasure” is to claim that an action is, in fact, a credit—you did me a favor by giving me an opportunity to be kind.

Credit, of course, is the flip side of debt. Etymologically, the term conjures trust; extending trust to others is the basis of sociability. “The story of the origins of capitalism,” David writes, “is not the story of the gradual destruction of traditional communities by the impersonal pow­er of the market. It is, rather, the story of how an economy of credit was converted into an economy of interest.” What if, instead of believing the myth that we are guilty debtors, we saw ourselves also as creditors—as human beings entitled to a dignified, secure, and flourishing life? What if our societies really do owe us all an equal living?

In David’s view, the slate must periodically be wiped clean, so that we can free ourselves from debt as both an economic burden and as an ideology that shapes and distorts our interactions. For now, debt pervades our thinking, even when we aspire to change things. As protests for racial justice are likely to continue in response to police brutality, it is often said that we are living through a moment of reckoning. This word is telling: to reckon means “to calculate,” or “to establish by counting or calculation”—as in, my dictionary tells me, “his debts were reckoned at $300,000.” Given the scale of the harm, it is impossible to truly reckon with the legacy of slavery and structural racism in this way, which is why leaders of the movement for reparations for the Atlantic slave trade often oppose attempts to assign a number to the debt, arguing instead that it is so vast it necessitates a reordering of international relations. Or consider the recent announcement by the city of Louisville, Kentucky, that it would pay more than twelve million dollars to the family of Breonna Taylor, the young woman killed by the police during a botched raid on her apartment, as though any sum could encapsulate her life’s worth. Certainly, monetary compensation is important, but the state also has an obligation to insure that what happened to Taylor never happens again. “If people are really serious about a national reckoning on racial injustice,” Ayanna Pressley told me, “the only receipts that matter to mitigate the existing hurt and to chart a new path forward are our budgets and our policies.”

David Graeber believed that we might one day free ourselves from the tyranny of debt to embrace a more expansive economic paradigm. As an anthropologist, he understood the enormous variation and inherent mutability of human society and cultural traditions—financial contracts can be rewritten, and social contracts can be remade, as well. That’s what grassroots movements do, pushing against vested interests that, when under enough pressure, typically prefer half-measures to profound transformation. In “Debt,” David remarked that, even when plagued by debt crises, ancient Athens and Rome “insisted on legislating around the edges.” The United States has done something similar, he wrote, eliminating some of the most egregious abuses, including debtors’ prisons, but never having challenged “the principle of debt itself.”

Even though I have spent years organizing for a mass jubilee, I, too, have held on to the idea that some debts are legitimate, and that what we need is a sort of moral audit to separate the odious from the upright. I wanted to ask David about this during the conversation we had planned. Now that he’s gone, I feel like I’m beginning to grasp his deeper point. How could I ever pay back what I owe him? My debt goes beyond what numbers or words can convey. The only way I can honor my obligation is to continue fighting for the transformed world he wanted to see.

LIHEAP DCL-2020-01 Funding Release FY 21 Published: November 5, 2020

Author:  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services     Published: 11/5/2020    Office of Community Services

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Guidance, Policies, ProceduresDear Colleague Notices

Dear Colleague Letter

DCL#: LIHEAP-DCL-2021-01

DATE: November 5, 2020

TO: States, tribes, and territories

SUBJECT: FY 2021 Funding Release

ATTACHMENT(S): 1. FY 2021 Funding Release of LIHEAP Block Grant Funds to States and Territories
2. FY 2021 Funding Release of LIHEAP Block Grant Funds to Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations

Dear Colleagues,

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services (OCS), Division of Energy Assistance (DEA), announces the release of approximately $3.36 billion of Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 regular block grant funding to LIHEAP grantees. This funding is provided under the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, (“Continuing Resolution”), which the President signed into law on October 1, 2020 (Public Law 116-159). The Continuing Resolution provides funding for LIHEAP until December 11, 2020. This release reflects 90 percent of the total or annualized amount of funds available under the Continuing Resolution to grantees at the beginning of the program year.

Please find attached a table detailing the allocations to state and territory grantees and a table detailing the allocations to tribal grantees under this release. Grantees with completed FY 2021 LIHEAP plans will be sent award letters with their individual funding amounts. Each grantee that submitted a complete LIHEAP plan for FY 2021 received 90 percent of the funding available under the Continuing Resolution, after accounting the annual updates to the LIHEAP allocation formula data used to calculate the block grant allocation amounts.

Should you have any questions or need any assistance from our office, please contact your DEA federal liaison.

In light of ongoing natural disasters and the winter weather commencing in some parts of the country, we remind you of the flexibilities you have to revise your FY 2021 LIHEAP Plans as needed throughout this year to reflect significant changes to your policies to meet changing needs. We also remind you of our resources about disaster planning and response available on the LIHEAP Q & As on Disaster Relief page of our ACF LIHEAP website.

Thank you for your attention and OCS looks forward to continuing to provide high quality services to OCS grantees.

Lauren Christopher
Director, Division of Energy Assistance
Office of Community Services

Last Reviewed: November 5, 2020

Tesla and its infrastructure come out on top

Author: Electric Auto Association        Published: 11/17/2020        EAA

Tesla and its infrastructure come out on top

Two videos by Matt Farrell provide an excellent overview of how Tesla matches up against other vehicles and charging networks

Above, Matt Ferrell of ‘Undecided’, presents a very thorough and compelling comparison of DC fast charging and the Tesla Supercharger network. DC fast charging can charge at 270 Kw, which is faster than any Tesla can charge. But that doesn’t mean it’s a better choice…

Below, Ferrell reviews important advantages of the Tesla Model Y over other newly released and upcoming vehicles, including gas-powered cars.

Above, Matt Ferrell of ‘Undecided’, presents a very tho

Below, Ferrell reviews important advantages of the Tesla Mo


Jonathan Scott’s POWER TRIP

Author: Jonathan Scott              Published: 11/17/2020          INDIE LENS

Property Brothers star, Jonathan Scott, wondered why every home in America doesn’t have solar panels. Watch the premiere of Power Trip today on PBS to find out what he uncovered and learn how we can change America’s energy future together.


STREAM for free on the PBS Video App or Online,

Energy freedom for everyone is at our fingertips. But why does it still seem so far away? Because there are some very powerful people preventing us from attaining it. In Power Trip, filmmaker Jonathan Scott (HGTV’s Property Brothers) travels the United States confronting those at the root of the issue and meets the everyday citizens fighting against a deeply entrenched, powerful system that’s waging war against the solar industry—and against the rights of the people who want to choose how they power their lives. Jonathan Scott’s Power Trip will infuriate, enrage, and compel you to take action to make solar energy a global reality.


U.S. DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Finds PACE Increases Solar PV Adoption in Underserved Communities

Authors:  PACE Nation         Published:    11/12/2020                  PACE





Earlier this week, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab published a study, “The Impact of Policies and Business Models on Income Equity in Rooftop Solar Adoption,” that includes new findings on the positive impacts of PACE for low- and middle-income homeowners.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy, was co-authored by Galen Barbose, Ryan Wiser, Sydney Forrester, and Naim Darghouth of Berkeley Lab’s Electricity Markets & Policy group.

The researchers studied the impacts of five policies on the adoption of solar PV among low- and middle-income households. Three policies, including PACE, were found to increase adoption among these traditionally underserved homeowners and led to a more equitable distribution of solar PV installations.

Berkeley Lab noted that the analysis “found that the first three types of interventions – targeted incentives, leasing, and PACE – are effective at increasing adoption equity. “The results for those three interventions are pretty strong,” O’Shaughnessy said. “And the research also provides evidence that these interventions are leading to both deepening, or expanding in existing markets, and broadening, or moving into new markets – low-income areas where there traditionally was not solar.” [1]

The study adds to a growing body of research, including the recent USC study “The Impact of PACE Funding on Solar Adoption,” that found PACE availability drives large increases in the adoption of solar technology.

View the study

Earlier this week, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab published a study, “The Impact of Policies and Business Models on Income Equity in Rooftop Solar Adoption,” that includes new findings on the positive impacts of PACE for low- and middle-income homeowners.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Energy, was co-authored by Galen Barbose, Ryan Wiser, Sydney Forrester, and Naim Darghouth of Berkeley Lab’s Electricity Markets & Policy group.

The researchers studied the impacts of five policies on the adoption of solar PV among low- and middle-income households. Three policies, including PACE, were found to increase adoption among these traditionally underserved homeowners and led to a more equitable distribution of solar PV installations.

Berkeley Lab noted that the analysis “found that the first three types of interventions – targeted incentives, leasing, and PACE – are effective at increasing adoption equity. “The results for those three interventions are pretty strong,” O’Shaughnessy said. “And the research also provides evidence that these interventions are leading to both deepening, or expanding in existing markets, and broadening, or moving into new markets – low-income areas where there traditionally was not solar.” [1]

The study adds to a growing body of research, including the recent USC study “The Impact of PACE Funding on Solar Adoption,” that found PACE availability drives large increases in the adoption of solar technology.

View the study

Eric O’ShaughnessyGalen L BarboseRyan H WiserSydney ForresterNaïm R Darghouth  Published: 11/12/2020    Electricity Markets & Policy


Low- and moderate-income (LMI) households are less likely to adopt rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) than higher income households in the United States. As the existing literature has shown, this dynamic can decelerate rooftop PV deployment and has potential energy justice implications, in light of the cost-shifting between PV and non-PV households that can occur under typical rate structures and incentive programs. Here we show that some state policy interventions and business models have expanded PV adoption among LMI households. We find evidence that LMI-specific financial incentives, PV leasing, and property-assessed financing have increased the diffusion of PV adoption among LMI households in existing markets and have driven more installations into previously under-served low-income communities. By shifting deployment patterns, we posit that these interventions could catalyze peer effects to increase PV adoption in low-income communities even among households that do not directly benefit from the interventions.


Energy Department Announces $130 Million in Solar Technology Projects

Author: DOE Solar Technology Office         Published: 11/122/2020             DOE

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced selections for $130 million in new projects to advance solar technologies. Through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, DOE will fund 67 research projects across 30 states that reduce the cost of solar, increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, and improve the reliability of the nation’s electric grid.

“Ensuring low-cost, reliable electricity for all Americans while minimizing risk is a top priority for this department,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “That means creating domestic manufacturing opportunities and increasing the power system’s resilience in case of disruptions. Projects that advance solar technologies are essential to achieving these goals.”

Along with advancing research in photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), and systems integration, the projects in DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 Funding Program include new areas of research in artificial intelligence (AI), hybrid plants, and solar with agriculture. Read more about the selections in the links below:

  • PV Hardware Research – $14 million for eight projects that aim to make PV systems last longer and increase the reliability of solar systems made of silicon solar cells, as well as new technologies like thin-film and bifacial solar cells.
  • Integrated Thermal Energy STorage and Brayton Cycle Equipment Demonstration (Integrated TESTBED) – $39 million will be awarded to Heliogen, Inc., which will build and operate a supercritical carbon dioxide power cycle that will serve as a test site to accelerate the commercialization of low-cost CSP plants.
  • Systems Integration – $34 million for 10 research projects that will develop resilient community microgrids to maintain power during and restore power after man-made or natural disasters, improve cybersecurity for PV inverters and power systems, and develop advanced hybrid plants that operate collaboratively with other resources for improved reliability and resilience.
  • AI Applications in Solar Energy with Emphasis on Machine Learning – $7.3 million for 10 projects that use AI and machine learning to optimize operations and solar forecasting, improve situational awareness on the distribution system and behind the meter, and enable the integration of more solar generation.
  • Innovations in Manufacturing: Hardware Incubator – $14 million for 10 research projects that will advance innovative prototypes to a pre-commercial stage, including products that support U.S. solar manufacturing and reduce the cost of installation.
  • Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies 3 – $9.7 million for six research projects that will examine how information gets to stakeholders to enable better decision-making about solar and combining solar with energy efficiency, energy storage, and electric vehicles.
  • Solar and Agriculture: System Design, Value Frameworks, and Impacts Analysis – $7 million for four projects that will advance the technologies, research, and practices necessary for farmers, ranchers, and others to co-locate solar and agriculture.
  • Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS): PV and CSP – $5 million for 18 projects that advance innovative, novel ideas in PV and CSP that can produce significant results in one year.

For a full list of projects, please visit this webpage. Award amounts are subject to final negotiation. Learn more about DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

DC’s electric vehicle charging law will have residents paying double to triple

Author: Charles Benoit                         Published:  2/28,2020             Electrek 

Washington, DC, has proposed a regulation that will govern electric vehicle (EV) charging on public streets. The contrast with surrounding Maryland neighborhoods shows how forgoing utility-operated and regulated-charging costs residents dearly.

The  regulation was proposed by Jeff Marootian, director of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), on Friday, February 21, 2020.

The regulation authorizes the director to lease public on-street parking spots for $2,400 per year to private businesses to resell electricity and bill as they like. This is a negligible amount. Private individuals pay an average of $7,200 per year to reserve a parking spot in downtown DC, or $3,000 per year in the residential neighborhoods surrounding downtown.

Private charging companies are invited to apply for the spots. DDOT will not own any chargers going forward, although it currently owns a handful of curbside chargers operated by ChargePoint (14th and U St. NW location shown in header image). Curbside charging is needed in the District, because 70% of residents live in multi-dwelling units without dedicated off-street parking.

The proposed EV charging regulation

  • In addition to whatever prices the vendor sets, the regulation requires a minimum $1 per hour charging fee and $10 per hour fee while not charging. It is unclear whether these fees are returned to the city, or kept by the vendor. (2406.29(e))
  • If you’re plugged in for over four hours during the day between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., you’re fined $30, even if you’re still charging. Applies every day of the year. (2406.29(e) and (2406.14(b-c))
  • If any car is parked without being plugged in, a $100 fine is assessed. (2406.29(a) and 2406.14(b-c))

The DC EV charging law is very strict on allocating eligible on-street parking spots:

  • Blocks with Residential Permit Parking (RPP) are ineligible. In DC, virtually every neighborhood in the city uses the RPP system. (See PDF map.) The exception is mainly the central business district (CBD), which is metered, and the least dense, outer suburban neighborhoods. RPP blocks are not metered, and while the parking is available to anyone, vehicles without RPP permits can only park for two hours at a time. (2406.22(c))
  • Blocks with rush-hour parking restrictions and snow emergency restrictions are ineligible. This limits potential spots in the District’s CBD. (2406.22(b))
  • No more than two spots per block can be designated for EV charging. (2406.23).
  • For every two charging stations installed in the CBD by a vendor, the vendor must install seven stations, each serving at least two spaces, outside the CBD. A vendor’s permit application for a 15th station won’t be approved until they have charging stations in each ward.

Unless the DC Council takes action soon, the EV charging regulation will become law. The public has until March 21, 2020, to submit comments, which can be emailed to

One neighborhood highlights the difference between utility-regulated curbside charging and private vendors

Takoma Park, Maryland, sits on both sides of the DC-Maryland border. It was developed this way. Both the DC and MD residents of this neighborhood are served by the same utility (Pepco) and the same public transit system (WMATA). But in Maryland, the utility regulator authorized Pepco to offer Level 2 EV charging for $0.18 per kWh on public rights-of-way, with that price controlled like any other electric tariff. Takoma Park has four of these public Level 2 chargers.

No matter what car — BEV or PHEV — you drive, when you plug in to the Pepco chargers on the Maryland side, you know you’re paying $0.18 per kWh.

District residents likely to pay $2.50 per hour for charging, pricing out charging for many

Residents of Takoma on the DC side of the border are likely to pay a minimum of $2.50 per hour under the proposed regulation. That assumption takes EVgo’s flat $1.50/hr for L2 charging, and adds the District’s $1/hr fee, assuming EVgo is required to remit that fee to the District.

When you consider that the majority of PHEVs can take only 3.3-3.6 kW of charging, that means they’ll be paying roughly $0.80 per kWh. This applies to a lot of BEVs as well, like the Nissan Leaf S trim up to 2018. Paying this much is equivalent to paying $10 per gallon for gasoline.

Pepco applied in August 2018 to the DC Public Service Commission, seeking to deploy neighborhood public chargers in DC. Electrek covered that decision, where the PSC said that under DC law, Pepco had to demonstrate that the needs of EV drivers were not being met by the competitive market before it could operate its own chargers, and that it had not done so.

However, the PSC did authorize Pepco to build out the “make-ready” infrastructure for 35 public neighborhood chargers at DC ratepayers’ expense. This means that DC ratepayers will be subsidizing the private vendors who will now benefit from DDOT’s proposed regulation.

Director Marootian unavailable for comment

Electrek emailed the DDOT Monday morning with a series of questions. We followed up again Tuesday, and we were told to expect a response by the end of the day. Repeated follow-ups since then have gone unanswered.

Electrek’s Take

There’s so much to dislike here:

  • Billing by the hour for charging: California has banned all new Level 2 chargers from billing by the minute for electricity starting January 1, 2021, because it’s inherently unfair. PHEVs and lower priced BEVs that charge at 3.3kW will not be able to make use of these chargers. Keep in mind, the regulation is about fees for charging. Fees for parking will still exist.
  • Placement rules deny benefits to District residents most in need: By excluding RPP blocks, DDOT has all but assured that the residents who most need curbside charging — those living in apartment buildings — will be unable to benefit from the infrastructure they helped pay to deploy. In fact, DDOT’s RPP exclusion combined with its multi-ward requirements all but assure that curbside EVSEs will pop up in the most suburban parts of the District where everyone on the block already has off-street parking. What a waste.
  • Overnight charging priced out: Billing $10/hr for every hour an EV is connected but not charging effectively prices out overnight parking. For example, the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf Plus, and Tesla Model 3 Mid-Range all have batteries between 62-66kWh in size. Assuming you plugged in at 7 p.m. with 10% battery remaining (a lucky maneuver requiring some planning), you would finish charging by 4 a.m. Assuming you didn’t return to your car until 8 a.m., you’d be penalized $40.
  • No minimum kW guarantee: The regulation contemplates shared charging posts. As we saw in New York City, this meant a drop down to below 5kW, less than normal L2 charging. When you’re being billed by the hour, this greatly increases the cost to charge.
  • Placement rules create artificial scarcity: The byzantine placement rules mean we can’t count on any vendor competition to keep prices in check. The most likely effect is that key downtown (CBD) locations will have crazy-high prices that are more about monetizing the parking spot than monetizing the charger. Right now, it can be pretty tough to find a metered curbside parking spot on K St. NW (DC’s famous lobbyist corridor). But now EVSE operators can charge whatever they want for two parking spots per block, and there’s no doubt enough rich lobbyists that will oblige. The real competition is the parking garages that charge $12/hr in the CBD.
  • Privatizing profits with public money: Using ratepayers funds to subsidize private charging operators is textbook “socialize the risk, privatize the profit.” We can’t help but note that 1) this regulation is perfectly timed to the PSC approved subsidy for “make-ready” neighborhood public charging, meaning these vendors won’t even have to pay the lion’s share of the cost for the buildout; and 2) Pepco is owned by Exelon, which is also a partial owner of ChargePoint, which means Exelon is now benefiting from selling electricity with unregulated prices.

While we can’t confirm, it appears that DDOT has proposed this regulation without consulting with any EV driver groups first. It certainly appears as though vendors were consulted, however. We hope the DC Council rejects this regulation entirely, because it’s worse than nothing. People see these public EV charging posts, have heard that driving an EV is supposed to be cheaper than driving an ICE, and then get a rude awakening. This will ultimately hurt EV adoption, and hurt DC’s working poor. The less expensive BEVs and PHEVs are most discriminated against.

The Council should focus on helping DC’s multi-dwelling residents first and foremost. The way you do that is by providing curbside charging at prices that are as close as possible to standard-offer service from the utility. So basically, what Maryland did for L2 charging. As for the tensions about taking away RPP parking spots and dedicating them to EVs, we agree that this is tough politically, and so prefer the plan in London. (Profiled by the Fully Chargedvideo link) In this situation, instead of trying to reserve a couple spots for EVs, the focus was on widespread deployment elegantly built into lamp posts and bollards, so that residents could likely find a spot every couple days.

If you’re a DC resident, please also consider writing to Michael Porcello, Legislative Director for Councilmember Cheh, who chairs the Transportation Committee:

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Teslaelectric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.



Author: American Association of Blacks in Energy        Published: 11/10/2020         AABE


Join us for the American Association of Blacks in Energy 2020 Virtual Energy Policy Summit, December 8 – 9, 2020. Since the Association’s founding, we have taken the lead in informing and educating policymakers on energy issues, including impacts on diverse communities. This year’s focus will be on promoting and advancing communities of color through inclusive energy policy. We will begin by hearing from experts about the Association’s policy priorities. Then we will continue the conversation with various industry experts on climate change, energy infrastructure, and policy, our CEOs, and a few other guests. There are a number of issues important to our communities and additional investments in the industry. Join us as we discuss energy’s role in the national economy and our communities at home.
Register by: December 8, 2020 5:00 PM Eastern Time




Register Now

Available Tickets

Ticket Name Remaining Sale Ends Price Quantity
AABE Member

AABE members will be allowed to enter a discount code at checkout.

$ 250.00
General Admission

This general admission ticket is for registrants that are not AABE members.

$ 250.00


  • 12:40 PM – 1:45 PM
    Promoting and Advancing Communities of Color Through Inclusive Energy Policy: A Discussion with African American CEOs
  • 1:45 PM – 2:00 PM
    Congressional Keynote: The Honorable Bobby Rush, Chairman, House Energy and Power Subcommittee
  • 2:00 PM – 2:45 PM
    Climate Change- Identifying Effective Reduction and Draw-down Policies
  • 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
    Washington Round Up—Energy and Power and the 117th Congress, Presidential Elections, and a Look Ahead to 2021


Paula Glover 200x200
Paula Glover, President & CEO, American Association of Blacks in Energy
Telisa Toliver
Telisa Toliver, General Manager Renewable Power, Chevron Pipeline and Power
Rick Thigpen LI Headshot
Rick Thigpen, Senior Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, PSEG
Dr. Tony Reames 200x200
Dr. Tony Reames, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability
Josh Tickell
Josh Tickell, Author and Director, Big Picture Ranch
Raya Salter 200x200
Raya Salter, Policy Director, NY Renews
Zeke Hausfather 200x200
Zeke Hausfather, Director of Climate and Energy, The Breakthrough Institute
Trenton Allen 200x200
Trenton Allen, Managing Director and CEO of Sustainable Capital Advisors
Devin Hampton 200x200
Devon Hampton, CEO, UtilityAPI
Deborah Gore-Mann 200x200
Deborah Gore-Mann, President and CEO, The Greenllining Institute
Cooper Martin 200x200
Cooper Martin, Director, Sustainability & Solutions, National League of Cities
Sue Coakley 200x200
Sue Coakley, Executive Director, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships
Ed Yoon 200x200
Ed Yoon, Chief Policy Advocacy Officer, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Nathaniel Smith 200x200
Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer, Partnership, Southern Equity (PSE)
Justin Gray 200x200
Justin Gray, President & CEO, Gray Global Advisors, LLC
Clint Odom
Clint Odom, Senior Vice President, National Urban League
Greg Wetstone 200x200
Greg Wetstone, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
Minday Lubber 200x200
Mindy Lubber, CEO & President, Ceres
Larry Sherwood 200x200
Larry Sherwood, President and CEO, Interstate Renewable Energy Council
Johney Green 200x200
Johney Green, Associate Laboratory Director, Mechanical and Thermal Engineering Sciences, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Understanding FERC 2222 With AEE CEO, Nat Kreamer, and managing directors and our general counsel, Jeff Dennis

Host: Jon Powers                      Published: 11/10/2020           Advance Energy Economy




Experts Only: Clean Capital LogoDescription: In its landmark Order No. 2222, FERC requires all Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (RTOs/ISOs) to remove barriers to wholesale market participation by aggregated distributed energy resources (DERs). This means that DERs – including distributed solar, energy storage, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, demand response, and more – will be able to bid into wholesale energy, ancillary services, and capacity markets according to their technical capabilities. While holding enormous potential for DER providers and aggregators to enter new markets with new business models, Order No. 2222 sets out numerous compliance requirements, which the RTOs/ISOs will have to decide how to meet, subject to FERC approval. The results of that process will ultimately determine the scale of this market opportunity for advanced energy businesses. This AEE webinar will break down FERC’s Order and examine the questions that DER developers, utilities, and grid operators will have to grapple with as they put Order No. 2222 into practice.We’re thrilled to share a special Experts Only episode with you. Host Jon Powers had the pleasure of speaking with our own CEO, Nat Kreamer, and one of our managing directors and our general counsel, Jeff Dennis,  to discuss Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order No. 2222.

  • Do you want to know more about what FERC does as an organization?
  • Do you want a better understanding of what Order No. 2222, which came out in September, will do for the industry and what the market opportunity will be?
  • Do you want to know how you can get involved with FERC and take action?

Then, click below to download this episode!

Download the Episode

Presents a Webinar:

FERC Order No. 2222: Opening the Door to DERs in Wholesale Markets

Live on Thursday, November 12 at 3pm ET

In its landmark Order No. 2222, FERC requires the removal of all barriers to wholesale market participation by aggregated distributed energy resources (DERs).


This bold action opens the door for new technologies to participate on an even playing field, which will increase not only industry innovation, but also consumer savings.


On November 12, Advanced Energy Economy’s webinar will break down FERC’s Order and examine the questions that DER developers, utilities, and grid operators will have to grapple with as they put Order No. 2222 into practice.


FERC Order No. 2222: Opening the Door to DERs in Wholesale Markets

Live on Thursday, November 12, at 3p ET / 12 PT

In its landmark Order No. 2222, FERC requires all Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (RTOs/ISOs) to remove barriers to wholesale market participation by aggregated distributed energy resources (DERs). This means that DERs – including distributed solar, energy storage, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, demand response, and more – will be able to bid into wholesale energy, ancillary services, and capacity markets according to their technical capabilities. While holding enormous potential for DER providers and aggregators to enter new markets with new business models, Order No. 2222 sets out numerous compliance requirements, which the RTOs/ISOs will have to decide how to meet, subject to FERC approval. The results of that process will ultimately determine the scale of this market opportunity for advanced energy businesses. This AEE webinar will break down FERC’s Order and examine the questions that DER developers, utilities, and grid operators will have to grapple with as they put Order No. 2222 into practice.



Managing Director and General Counsel, Advanced Energy Economy

Bruce Campbell

Director of Regulatory Affairs, CPower

Christopher Hargett

Energy Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Consolidated Edison

Kristin Swenson

Senior Advisor, Market Development, Midcontinent Independent System Operator

P.S. – For all you need to manage energy policy risks and opportunities from across the country, check out PowerSuite.



Ask Our Experts: New Legal States in the U.S

Author:  Josh Adams, Ph.D.        Published: 11/9/2020        NFD

Q: What are the implications from Election Day for the U.S. legal cannabis markets and industry?

A: While a divided country spent last week wondering about the U.S. presidential election outcome, cannabis came out a clear winner. Throughout all five of the states which considered reform measures on their ballots, legal cannabis programs took the day.

Voters in each Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey voted to approve adult-use initiatives. South Dakota voters approved two measures, simultaneously legalizing cannabis for both medical and adult use. Finally, Mississippi voters passed a medical cannabis initiative. Outside of increasing consumer access to cannabis, the newly legal markets are estimated to generate $1.2 billion in revenue by 2022, and help the overall U.S. market to surpass$3.3 billion by 2025.

While former U.S. vice president Joe Biden has been elected president, Republicans are poised to retain control of the Senate, while the Democrats hold a slimmer majority in the House for the 117th Congress after a projected “Blue Wave” failed to materialize. Expected stonewalling from a Republican-controlled Senate will likely stall any legislative agenda from the Biden administration, including moves to push for further liberalization of federal cannabis laws. Additionally, given the narrow margins of Biden’s win, there may be little political will to take on cannabis reform.

Similarly, Republican control of the Senate (pending January run-off elections for two seats in Georgia) suggests that consideration of the MORE Act is unlikely in the near term. The SAFE Banking Act may see some movement, as there has generally been bipartisan support for bringing regulatory clarity to cannabis banking and expanding financial services to cannabis businesses. That will be increasingly important with new cannabis markets coming online, if only for the efficiencies associated with regulatory oversight and taxation.

However, any movement toward wholesale federal reform remains unlikely in the near term. Regardless of whatever cannabis-related activity happens at the federal level, individual states appear to be on course to lead the way. With the five new states legalizing cannabis in some manner, social, economic, and political momentum seem set to expand the nation’s regulated marketplace. Aside from the needs and desires of cannabis consumers, the appeal of tax revenue and jobs are forcing states to consider legalized cannabis for the benefits it brings, and to drive legalization efforts forward.

How air pollution may influence the course of pandemics

Author: Jeremy Jackson and Kip Hodges            Published:   11/6/2020     Science Advances


Jeremy Jackson                     

             Kip Hodges

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing devastating mortality, with the highest rates of intensive care unit hospitalization and morbidity among older adults, men, and those with certain preexisting conditions, most notably cardiopulmonary diseases, obesity, and diabetes. In addition, a host of interrelated socioeconomic factors—including race, ethnicity, occupation, and poverty—increase the risks of COVID-19 infection for people of color, health care professionals, and other essential workers. These factors are, in turn, influenced by conditions of the human environment including chronic levels of air pollution, most notably fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that is a well-established risk factor for death from cardiovascular and pulmonary obstructive diseases. This raises the question of whether long-term exposure to higher levels of PM2.5 increases the severity of COVID-19 and, if so, what measures might be taken to ameliorate those risks. This is the challenge addressed by Wu et al. in a new contribution to a developing series of papers for Science Advances that is dedicated to the study of pandemics from an environmental perspective.

The ideal way to address questions about how PM2.5 pollution might influence the course of the pandemic would involve the study of detailed health datasets for very large numbers of people from all walks of life and locations. In this way, the potential effects of PM2.5 pollution might be evaluated in the context of other details about each individual’s life history and conditions. That approach is the gold standard of rigorous environmental epidemiology. A great example is a paper published earlier this year by Wu et al. (Sci. Adv. 2020; 6: eaba5692) that examined U.S. Medicare data for 68.5 million enrollees over 16 years and established that even very small decreases in PM2.5 pollution can result in a significant decrease in elderly mortality. Moreover, recent studies have shown that even short-term exposure to PM2.5 pollution increases risks of acute lower respiratory infections and hospitalizations for influenza (12).

The amount of time required for rigorous, extensive studies, however, conflicts with the swift nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing the potential impact of air pollution on COVID-19 mortality requires a more nimble approach to environmental policy decision-making.

One alternative is to search for correlations that suggest—rather than prove—causality, make the results of such studies publicly available, and then consider as a society whether or not actions should be taken out of an abundance of caution. This is the approach taken by Wu et al. in their newly published research in the November 6 issue of Science Advances. Their methods involved using ecological regression to search for correlations between area-specific, COVID-19–related death counts (compiled by Johns Hopkins University for more than 3000 U.S. counties) and well-established PM2.5 pollution levels for each county. The results show that higher values of exposure to PM2.5 are positively correlated with higher county-level mortality after taking into account over 20 potentially confounding factors. Most notably, they conclude that an increase of just 1 μg/m3 in the long-term average of pollution is associated with a significant 11% increase in a county’s rate of mortality.

There are strong policy implications for these results. COVID-19, zoonotic influenza, and other potentially severe emerging zoonotic diseases are and will remain long-term threats to our species. Rapidly emerging datasets suggest that these threats are likely to be exacerbated by air pollution, even at the levels currently attained in the United States despite conscientious efforts to improve air quality. While incomplete and not yet fully vetted by the broader scientific community, pathfinding studies such as that of Wu et al. set the stage for more traditional environmental epidemiology research.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.


The National Association of Blacks In Solar 2020 – 2021 National Platform Calling For A Green Economic Development Plan for Black America

Author: Ronald Bethea and Will Shirley       Published: 11/3/2020   The National Association of Blacks in Solar  NABS


The Platform presented herein is in response to 5 years of solar industry research and data analysis

Compiled by the POSITIVE CHANGE PURCHASING COOPERATIVE LLC of Washington D.C. and supporting National Research Institute

 Founding/Charter Members

PEER Consultants, P.C.

The National Association of Blacks in Solar

T/A Blacks in Solar



The National Association of Blacks in Solar



  •  Message from President of NABS Ronald Bethea: “Black America, Our Future is Now in Renewable Energy Industry”
  • Building  A Stronger, Fairer Green Economy for Black  America
  • Project Rationale for National Association of Blacks in Solar T/A Blacks in Solar (NABS)
  • Solution To Begin To Address  These  Issues:  HBCU Five- Year Green Economic Development Sustainability Plan
  • Why We Have Established  (NABS)
  • Preventing Black  America From Being Left Out of The New Green Economy



A Message from President (NABS)

Ronald K. Bethea

“Black America: Our Future is Now in Renewable Energy Industry”

We refuse to be relegated to simply a consumer class in this new renewable energy green market economy. NABS we will be at the forefront, advocating and actively engaging and seeking out public and private funding to make this platform become a reality.  By educating the black community locally and nationally about the economic impacts of climate change and the need for environmental education in the black community through black talk radio programs such as “Solar Now and The Future with Its Economic Impact on Black America” by purchasing a ninety-minute weekly time slot with one of the nationally syndicated black owned radio stations. Also, we will work the NABS membership and other stockholders on public policy issues to accomplish the following:

  • To address the economic effect of high energy cost for HBCUS.
  • To utilize black American-owned farm lands and HBCU campuses to develop capacity and initiatives for solar installation projects to bring down unemployment and under employment of young black men and women.
  • To encourage the development of mentorship-owned solar companies that will fully integrate Black Americans into the Renewable Solar Power industry,
  •  To structure a national system for the delivery of cost-saving solar power to our black-owned businesses, our homes, our churches, our schools, our non-profits and other black-owned facilities. We will create a solar jobs training network throughout the country in our black communities,
  • To establish a Legal Division that will fight for solar policy change for our black municipalities, counties, and communities,
  • To establish a coalition working with existing black organizations across America for the purposes of securing Congressional support, assuring buy-in from existing solar industry associations, and pursuing many other activities that will support our efforts.




  • NABS will request that members of Congressional Black Caucus host an Executive Congressional Hearing on a Green Economic Development Plan for Black America including members of the CBC who serve on oversight committees that play keys roles on climate change and renewable energy, “Solar-Based Economic Development”.
  • NABS will address this serious issue by establishing a process for evaluating social, political, economic environments and priorities in the development of an individualized long-term solar strategy for HBCUs, Black municipalities, Black county governments, the Black business community, and Black non-profits and demand that the Biden Administration invest 35% of the $2 trillion that his administration plans to invest clean energy in black communities nationally.
  • The following African-American owned institutions include HBCUs, black-owned banks, businesses, churches, farmers, and property owners, along with targeted funding for African-American owned commercial and residential units nationally through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The Biden administration is planning to implement these resources over his first term.
  • NABS will request full funding for a national HBCU Five- Year Green Economic Development Sustainability Plan developed by the Positive Change Purchasing Cooperative, LLC. and PEER Consultants lead by their CEO, Dr. Lilia Abron, P.E., BCEE who just received the highest professional distinction accorded to an engineer, as an inductee of the National Academy of Engineers Class of 2020. The plan is designed

To increase the market share for African American solar design, installation and work force development companies. The NASB will work on public policy issues with the following:

  1. African American Mayors Association
  2. Black public service commissioners and black members of PSC Commissions, nationally
  3. Black state legislative caucuses and members, nationally
  4. Black city council members, county commissioners, nationally
  • To use Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) as a national organizing tool to cut energy cost for black business owned and residential properties, nationally and to negotiate with Chain Store Franchisers on Solar for Black Franchisees
  • To use the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements
  • To negotiate a position with major corporation to serve as off takers for NABS Member Projects on their books.
  • To negotiate with U.S. DOE Solar Training Network to establish a National Solar STEM Program as well as to establish Solar Job Training Centers at Selected HBCUs and other locations around the country
  • To negotiate with training platform owners to standardize solar job training in the black community nationwide through NABS members and partnerships
  • To achieve a National Solar Consultancy for black Institutions, municipalities, counties, and communities
  • To create a legal department that will work to develop public policy to work with other associations in pursuit or solar policies benefitable black communities nationally





The current coronavirus crisis has destroyed millions of American jobs, including hundreds of thousands in clean energy.  As Congress,  in the first week of July, deliberated over and debated economic stimulus support for the energy industry, a new analysis of unemployment data shows the biggest part of America’s energy economy – clean energy – lost another 27,000 jobs in May, bringing the total number of clean energy workers who have lost their jobs in the past three months to more than 620,500. It has exacerbated historic environmental injustices. The solar industry and more specifically, African Americans in the solar industry, need to establish millions of solar construction jobs, skilled trades, and engineering workers to build a new American solar infrastructure and clean energy economy. These jobs will create pathways for young people and for older workers shifting to new professions, and for people from all backgrounds and all communities to enter into the fastest growing industry in the world.

A recent press release by the Biden Campaign is titled, “THE BIDEN PLAN TO BUILD A MODERN, SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE AND AN EQUITABLE CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE”. If Biden is elected in November, his administration will make a $2 trillion accelerated investment, with a plan to deploy those resources over his first term, setting us on an irreversible course to meet the ambitious climate progress that science demands, along with the following developments:

  1. The cost of shifting the U.S. power grid to 100 percent renewable energy over the next 10 years is an estimated $4.5 trillion, according to a new Wood Mackenzie analysis.
  2. Amazon Launches U.S $2. Billion Climate Pledge Fund Amid Reputation Crisis
  3. Microsoft’s New Environmental Sustainability Initiativeand $1 billionClimate Innovation Fund, along with Sol Systems and Microsoft, Working Together on Portfolio of 500 megawatts of U.S. Solar Project, and Investments in Communities on the Front Lines of Climate Change.
  4. Chicago Launches$200 million RFP to Power City Facilities by Renewable Energy
  5. New York’s $701 Million Program for EV Charging, By the Numbers
  6. DCSEU – DC SEU Wards 7 & 8 Solar Initiative : Washington DC Government Solar For All Program to assist low and moderate income resident go solar.
  7. Wells Fargo makes a$200 billion Sustainable Finance Commitmentthrough 2030, with at least 50% going toward renewable energy and clean technology projects. Wells Fargo also provides $5 million in seed funding to create the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund with the nonprofit, GRID Alternatives, to support solar projects in tribal communities.
  8. Wells Fargo announces a renewable energy transaction that will power 400 Wells Fargo properties in Texas from a new utility-scale solar installation in the state.
  9. With commitments of 160cities, more than ten counties, and eight states across the U.S. have goals to power their communities with 100% clean, renewable energy in total. Over 100 million people now live in a community with an official 100% renewable electricity target.
  10. Thirty-six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court examined a small aspect of this question—answering it mostly negatively.   In 1976 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) vs Federal Commission 425, US 662 1976 (“FPC,” FERC’s predecessor) issued a ruling prohibiting utilities from discriminating against their employees based on race. Their proposed ruling would have required the Commission to “(a) enumerate unlawful employment practices; (b) require regulates to establish a written program for equal employment opportunity, which would be filed with the Commission; and (c) provide for individual employees to file discrimination complaints directly with the Commission” (as summarized in Chief Justice Burger’s concurring opinion). Citing the Federal Power Act and Natural Gas Act, the NAACP argued that (a) the FPC’s substantive statutes declare the businesses of selling electricity and natural gas to be “affected with a public interest,”and (b)racial discrimination by utilities conflicts with the public interest.  The FPC therefore was both authorized and obligated to bar racial discrimination by its licensees.

The question becomes where is the Green Economic Development Plan for Black America? Many of our southern states are regulated markets, with no public policy and legislation. The lack of Renewable Energy Standards in many of our southern states make many of the large-scale megawatt solar projects non bankable for solar companies. This was recently the case for Will R. Shirley, E.M.Sc. President/CEO Sundial Solar Power Developers, Inc. of Jackson, Mississippi, the only African American owned solar company in the state of Mississippi. In a recent letter to his solar farm clients, he communicated the following:

“Dear Sir: Sundial Solar Power Developers, Inc. (Sundial Solar), has, over the last 3 years, experienced serious setbacks, and roadblocks in getting projects like yours off the ground. In your case Sundial Solar has explored every way possible to make your project a bankable endeavor; however, your family and other families like yours are being shut out of a 25-year, generational economic opportunity.

In our estimation, the main cause of these setbacks and roadblocks is the lack of Renewable Energy Standards in the State of Mississippi. As a result of Sundial Solar’s efforts to service Mississippi landowners like you, we can deliver anecdotal evidence that families like yours have been denied several hundreds of thousands of dollars based on unfair and immoral state policy that economically discriminates against Mississippi landowners”.

This is not just a Mississippi problem; this is a national problem in regulated markets. This is not an issue for African American Solar design, installation, and workforce development companies but all solar companies doing business in the United States.

Looking at the data recently put out by the 2019 Solar Foundation Diversity Study, we have a little over 9,000 solar companies doing business in the United States. But we have been able to confirm less than 20 African American Solar companies doing business in the United States – this is not sustainable for obvious reasons.

The South, Southwest, East Coast and major cities and urban markets across the United States where a large percentage of the African American population reside, makes it almost impossible to increase market share for African American solar design, installation, and work force development companies to increase market share.

The list of disparities, when it comes to national, state, and local solar policy development for the black community, is unacceptable going forward into the 21st century.  Aside from the challenges listed above, below is a list of specific on-going problems that cannot and will not be addressed by the status quo.

When we take a look at the Solar Foundation’s 2019 U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study, the diversity shortfall is not unique to the solar industry. The Government Accountability Office found that as of 2015, women represent only 22% of the technology workforce and African American workers represent only 7%, figures that remained virtually unchanged over a decade (See Below).


As we look at third-party recruiters which are independent recruiters contracted by solar companies to uncover, vet, and hire, the question is how many of the third-party recruiters are African American companies contracted to look for talent from our HBCUs.

When we also take a closer look at upstream solar firms that engage in manufacturing, sales and distribution activities, other solar firms provide finance, legal services, research, advocacy, and not-for-profit education activities. The African American presence in these areas is nonexistent, after 12 years of the solar industry being the fasted growing industry for job growth in United States.

 The Case for a National Organization that Supports Solar in our Neighborhoods

National statistics concerning black people in the solar industry are disappointing as we can see on the following charts (please click to enlarge.)


 In the above chart we can see that black solar worker demographics do not even compete with Latino demographics (please click to enlarge).


 Our concern is that we need to prepare our people for full participation in the New Renewable Energy Economy Revolution. If we do not ORGANIZE NOW, our future in the renewable solar energy economy will continue to be relegated to the Consumer Class with low ownership positions and exceptionally low economic benefit for our schools, HBCUs, municipalities, counties, and businesses.

There are many more specific problems that the black owned solar companies face nationwide. These more specific problems can only be addressed and only be solved by a nationally structured, systematic 25-year plan to alleviate solar discrimination and injustices that are prevalent in the solar industry today. The problems are evident in the following statements.

  • No public awareness exists in the black community concerning the effective economics of solar. The list of the “solar uninformed” in the Black community includes:  K-12 school administrators, black businesses leaders (small and large), HBCU presidents, black mayors, black county supervisors and administrators, non-profit leaders, neighborhoods, and neighborhood association leaders.  Here is a thought – If black leaders in black communities are among the “solar uninformed”, how can they lead?
  • No HBCU strategy exists that will produce (1) new solar business owners, (2) HBCU student solar associations, or (3) 25 years of electric utility savings, thereby creating a savings fund (or similar approach) that can be utilized to help address the priority financial issues of each HBCU.
  • No concerted strategy exists that re-focuses workforce development resources in black communities. There is no mechanism that associates workforce development dollars in black communities with solar job training for young black men and women.  Question – with no concerted strategy in the black community, how can black solar professionals be created, thrive, and fully participate in the world’s fastest growing industry.
  • No “Solar-Based Economic Development strategies exist that delivers effective, long-term solar policy for the black community. Just as in the case of “Technology-Based Economic Development” that changed the process of how industries, governments, and communities used technology to prosper, so can “Solar-Based Economic Development ” change the process of how black communities, governments, educational entities, and businesses begin to develop strategies that will produce short and long-term economic benefits.  If the status quo remains in place for the next 10 years, black people in America will be totally shut out of the economic benefit, prosperity and affluence that is being realized by others in the solar industry.  We as Black people need to use solar power as an economic development tool that will drive high paying jobs in the new green economy.
  • No targeted job training exists in America that focuses on preparing young black men and women for careers in the solar industry. As one can see, national solar workforce numbers reveal an unsustainable future.  Black owned solar companies in America represent a disappointing percentage of the total amount of solar companies in business today.  This percentage reflects badly on black participation in solar from an ownership position in the world’s fastest growing industry.  This number also reflects badly on future generational participation in the industry.
  • No “means of production” of solar equipment exists in the Black community. When the world is going solar, how is it that there is not one single solar panel manufacturing company owned by a consortium of black owners, that can produce full panels or sub-panel components.
  • Black owned solar companies face a double-whammy when it comes to supply chain issues. First, no black means of production exists (mentioned above) and no purchasing coop/organization is in place that can negotiate pricing on large scale solar panel purchases for black owned solar companies. Most economists recognize the power of group purchasing opportunities.   If the few black owned solar companies that exist today had an opportunity to buy solar panels at deep discounts via coop purchasing agreements, great advances could be made in the supply chain that favorably addresses a growing black owned solar company population in America.
  • No national solar consultancy exists to support black institutions in America to realize the prospects of “Solar-Based Economic Development”. NABS will address this serious issue by establishing a process for evaluating social, political, economic environments and priorities in the development of an individualized long-term solar strategy for HBCUs, black municipalities, black county governments, the black business community, and black non-profits.



HBCU Five- Year Green Economic Development Sustainability Plan

 Ronald Bethea is President and Founder of Positive Change Purchasing Cooperative LLC. Our cooperative, as advocate for marketing, fundraising, and research, working with Lilia Abron, Ph.D, P.E., BCEE President PEER Consultants, has developed an HBCU Five-Year Green Economic Development Sustainability Plan.

The power point presentation is an action plan template drawn up by PEER to serve as a starting plan for colleges and universities interested in making their campuses more sustainable. The goals, actions, and measures within this sustainability plan are tentative and can be tailored specifically to meet the needs of college and universities after their input. Goals are as follows:

  • To provide a blueprint for economic self-reliance for the solar and renewal energy companies both large and small, along with increasing market share for African American Solar design, installation, and workforce development companies.
  • To address the economic effect of high energy cost for HBCUS.
  • To utilize Black American owned farmlands and HBCU campuses to develop capacity and initiatives for solar installation projects to bring down the numbers of unemployment, under employed young black men and women.
  • To educate the black community locally and nationally about the economic impacts of climate change and the need for environmental education in the black community through black talk radio programs such as “Solar Now and The Future with Its Economic Impact on Black America”.


NABS will address the serious issue of Solar-Based Economic Development by establishing a process for evaluating social, political, economic environments and priorities in the development of an individualized long-term solar strategy for HBCUs, Black municipalities, Black county governments, the Black business community, and Black non-profits.   NABS will establish a process for evaluating social, political, economic environments and priorities in the development of an individualized long-term solar strategy for HBCUs, Black municipalities, Black county governments, the Black business community, and Black non-profits. NABS will thereby help prevent Black America from being left out of the new green economy by building a stronger, fairer green economy


Achieve Memberships from Minority Solar Companies and Supporting Organizations

The National Association of Blacks in Solar was organized based on the premise that the black community, in every state of the union, is being left out of major solar policy decisions that concern the specific needs of the black community. NABS was organized to fill these policy gaps in national, state, and local solar policy development.  The organization will start the process of rectifying the problems listed above. Again, there exist NO Solar Policy Initiatives that support any of our black institutions in a sustainable, long-term basis – the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BLACKS IN SOLAR will begin the process of delivering effective solar planning, policy development and policy implementation for our people.

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