American students and graduates are drowning in $1.3 trillion of student loan debt. On average, it will take a graduate from the class of 2016 more than two decades to pay off about $40,000 of loan debt. But, as outrageous as these statistics are, research shows that black students have it even worse.
According to a 2016 Brookings Institution study, African American students take out more loans and in higher amounts to finance their education compared to students of other races. In fact, black students from low- and moderate-income family backgrounds end up paying almost $8,000 more in loan debt than white students.
While racial disparities in higher education is an issue that is frequently addressed by Black Enterprise Education Editor Robin White-Goode, BE took it a step further by tackling this issue during the BE HBCU Summit. Held at Morgan State University on Feb. 27–28, this two-day summit convened education experts and business leaders to discuss topics and solutions to help provide black students with resources to attend and afford college, especially HBCUs. In a panel discussion titled “Financing Your Education: What HBCU Families Need to Know,” Larry Griffith, UNCF senior vice president, and Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, shared tips on how black families can make paying for college affordable. At one point during the panel, Griffith stressed how important it is for families to know four things:
1. The process
According to Griffith, it’s imperative for college-bound students and their families to educate themselves on the process of applying for college. Understand that there will be hurdles in this process, he stressed. Stay on top of deadlines to apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), grants, and other forms of aid, he said, adding that students should also be aware of what is required in order to submit these forms.
2. Create a school budget
In addition to being aware of the cost of tuition, room-and-board, and textbooks, students need to properly budget for other things when enrolling in college, such as transportation to and from school, he said.
3. Look at the full picture
Because planning for the first year of college is a daunting task in itself, it can be easy to forget the need to plan ahead for all four years. There’s also a chance that school tuition will go up at some point within this time. To help you plan accordingly, understand how grants work, your work-study options, scholarships, and loans.
4. Know your resources
Lastly, Griffith stressed how important is it for parents and students to understand the difference between federal loans, state loans, interest rates, scholarships, and grants.
Jeffries, on the other hand, advised parents to avoid for-profit schools that prey on students of colors. He used Trump University as a prime example of the predatory schools to avoid.
Watch a clip of Jefferies talking about how and why schools, government, and nonprofit organizations need to work together in order to help students of color get access to college and graduate on time.