The Education Trust hosted a webinar Wednesday along with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Black Girls Vote, and Higher Heights for America PAC.
Diverse Education reports panelists at the webinar addressed the disproportionate financial and mental burden of student debt on Black women and how it affects their physical and mental health and their families.
According to the Education Trust, Black women owe an average student debt of $38,000 after earning a bachelor’s degree and $52,000 after earning a graduate degree. Additionally, Education Trust says that 12 years after starting college, Black women typically owe 113% of their student loans while every other demographic can pay off some portion of what they owe.
Victoria Jackson, assistant director of higher education policy at Education Trust, said Black women “shoulder the greatest burden from the high cost of college.”
“We have fewer resources because of racism and sexism — gender and wealth pay gaps are well documented,” Jackson told Diverse Education.
“When you think about the stress caused by not seeing any decline on your balance, how demoralizing that can be, it creates financial stress and has ripple effects. Research shows debt, in general, can harm mental health.”
To make matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the mental health concerns of Black women.
Belma Moriera knows the burden first hand. The single mom of four chose to attend college to get ahead in life as a massage therapist and aesthetician, a position that would give her a good income, stability, and time to spend with her family.
“My belief has always been, work hard, and teach my kids what you can get if you work hard and are responsible,” Moriera told Diverse Education.
“But this system is not built for me, or my children, as a Black woman.”
Moriera attended three for-profit colleges, including ITT Tech, by the time she graduated. Today, she still owes $24,000 in student loan debt even after the Biden administration announced $1.1 billion in debt relief to 115,000 borrowers who attended ITT Tech. She shared her story at the webinar Wednesday, and thousands more Black women and men have the same story.
The Biden administration is still trying to develop a way to provide student debt relief for millions of Americans who attended college, for-profit or otherwise. Biden has suggested eliminating $10,000 in loan debt, however hundreds of labor unions and civil rights organizations say $10,000 is not enough.