Black College Students Face Bigger Debts Than Their White Counterparts

Black college students are suffering under an unequal burden of student loan debt, according to a recent study reported by Blavity. The median black student federal debt for graduate school was about 25% higher than their white counterparts, while their total federal debt was $25,000 higher. 

Ben Miller, vice president for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress, wrote a lengthy report about the current debt situation amongst college students, detailing the difficult position many black teenagers and young adults are facing. Miller’s report shows that this country’s student loan problem has a significant dangerous effect on blacks who are looking toward higher education as a means to get out of entrenched poverty.

“The sustained rise in graduate debt also has substantial equity implications, particularly for black students. Black students are more likely to borrow in graduate school and have more undergraduate debt than their white peers. As a result, the median debt for a black student borrower finishing graduate school is 50% higher than that of a white borrower. Societal pay disparities also mean that women with graduate degrees receive salaries comparable to their less-educated male peers,” Miller stated in the article.

“The result is that individuals seeking graduate education to address pervasive societal pay gaps will end up paying more for those credentials over the long run,” he added. 

Sadly, based on the findings, many black college students feel they must justify taking out the high-interest loans to try to keep pace with their less-educated white peers in order to stand a chance of making any type of comparable money—especially when they feel they need to obtain more than a bachelor’s degree to earn the type of salaries that less-educated white men receive.

“Black and Latinx graduate students are more likely to go into debt than their white peers, and those who finish end up with much more total debt. Almost 90% of black or African American students who took on federal loans for graduate school and finished in the 2015-16 academic year had debt from undergraduate studies. Black students’ median federal debt for graduate school was about 25% higher than that of their white peers, and their total federal debt was $25,000 higher,” Miller wrote.

The report also states that to allow black students to continue taking out high-interest loans just to keep up with their white peers will only make the situation worse.

“The laissez-faire federal approach to graduate student debt must change. The unchecked accumulation of federal debt can lead too many students into loans they will struggle to repay, while extended repayment time frames can make it harder to build wealth and leave an entire generation behind,” Miller said.

“The current system has had particularly pernicious effects on black and Latinx students, as well as women, who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. It is time for the federal government to make sure that the tens of billions of dollars in graduate student loans it provides each year really are making lives better.”