By Ryan Velez
NewsOne reports that while student-loan debt is taking on higher and higher numbers – Black students are taking some of the hardest hits of all in the midst of the change. A study from the Brookings Institution reports the presence of very evident race-based disparities in low-to-middle income students. On average, Black students leave college with an average debt of $27,000, compared to the $20,000 average incurred by white students.
Other facts noted by the study include that Black students are borrowing at a higher rate, with 81% compared to the 63% of white students who take out student loans. On NewsOne Now, student loan expert Heather Jarvis joined guest host Dr. Wilmer Leon to discuss both these disparities and what Black students can do to try and avoid being crippled by student loan debt.
Jarvis says that the rising cost of tuition and stagnant incomes are two of the major culprits for these racial disparities. She adds that policies based around financial aid had shifted admissions to a debt-based system of access.
“Instead of having grant funding sufficient to meet the needs of Black and low-income families, we have placed the burden squarely on students and their families to borrow the money needed to pay for higher costs,” she adds. When asked what Black families could do, Jarvis says that building wealth is the most secure option, but naturally, this is very difficult for many Black families. As a way to lower the financial burden, she says that families should pursue as much free aid like grants and scholarships as possible
Dr. Leon then turned the lens of the conversation to President Barack Obama, and what his policies have done to lower the burden placed on many Black students. Jarvis says that while his work has been useful, it hasn’t fully addressed the problem.
“The pay as you earn program is excellent and important, but it’s really a band-aid that doesn’t get to the core root of the problem, which is the rising cost and the fact that incomes have failed to keep pace with the rising cost of tuition,” Jarvis explained.
The student loan debt crisis, exacerbated by difficulties for graduates in trying well-paying jobs, has evolved into a national issue prior to November’s presidential elections. Both Democratic candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have addressed plans to try and improve the situation, but Sanders’ plans are more far reaching: to try and make state colleges free for all students.