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Building Economic Equity through Student Debt Cancellation

Center for Responsible Lending


Spitfire has built a longstanding relationship with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), a nonprofit research and advocacy organization promoting financial fairness and economic opportunity for all. At the height of the fight for student debt cancellation, our partners at CRL understood that to win, the narrative about borrowers and the burden of student loan debt needed to change.

Spitfire worked with CRL to develop and implement a strategy to advance student debt cancellation — making the case that our nation’s student debt crisis is a racial justice and economic equity issue. Our team supported CRL by identifying key audiences to engage and crafting tailored messages to help reach those audiences effectively, developing messaging materials and mobilizing trusted messengers to help amplify their call to action. Through our strategic messaging and earned media efforts, Spitfire was able to secure placement of an op-ed in The Hill, a federal policy outlet for President Joe Biden’s eyes, written by Jaylon Herbin, director of federal campaigns at CRL and Wisdom Cole, national director of the NAACP youth & college division.  

CRL’s efforts, in partnership with their campaign allies, ultimately contributed to the Biden administration announcing it would cancel $20,000 of federal student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients, and up to $10,000 for other qualifying borrowers. Unfortunately, a series of legal challenges meant that the Supreme Court would determine the fate of the Biden administration’s student debt cancellation plan. Spitfire worked with CRL to revise their strategy and implement new tactics to keep the promise of student debt cancellation alive and to ensure borrowers had the information they needed as they awaited the court’s decision. 

Our team supported CRL by pitching and moderating a panel on the state of student debt cancellation at the 2023 NetRoots conference, securing a podcast interview with Newsweek and sourcing a variety of stories from borrowers who attended the People’s Rally for Student Debt outside of SCOTUS ahead of the court’s ruling on debt cancellation. 

As borrowers across the country continue to be burdened by our nation’s student debt crisis, CRL’s work has been instrumental in shifting the perceptions of who will benefit from debt cancellation by making this a critical racial justice and economic equity issue.

Spitfire services employed

Communication planning and execution

Strategic planning

Partner with Us

Issues Covered

Economic Justice/Economic Equity

Racial justice