Recently, a group of four United States senators issued a statement asking for expert advice on how to address the racial disparities in student debt and the broader challenges faced by students of color in college and career training. The senators who authored the statement are Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Doug Jones of Alabama, Kamala Harris of California, and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada.
In their statement the senators outline specific examples of obstacles that students of color encounter in higher education. In addition to lower degree attainments among minority students compared to White students, students of color are more likely to borrow, borrow in greater amounts, and are less likely to be able to pay down their debt. According to their statement, nearly 60 percent of African-American students enrolled in college do not complete their degrees within six-years, which is 26 percentages points higher than the dropout rate for White students. Of those African-American students who did not complete their degrees, 70 percent cited student debt as the primary reason.
Some African-American students still owe more than 100 percent of their loan balance 12 years after entering college, even if they complete a degree. However, White students owe anywhere between 47 to 70 percent of their loan balance after the same time period. Additionally, among bachelor’s degree graduates, the African-American-White debt gap more than triples after graduation due to difference in interest accrual, graduate school borrowing, and ongoing deeper issues related to labor market discrimination, racialized economic hardships, and family wealth. In particular, African-American bachelor’s degree graduates default at five times the rate of White bachelor’s degree graduates. African American college graduates are more likely to default on student loans than White college dropouts.
“These outcomes are staggering and unacceptable,” the statement reads. “As members of Congress, we are committed to doing better for these students and ask for your assistance in defining specific proposals the federal government can take to address these disparities.”
Anyone that would like to share their expertise, insights, or proposals for protecting and empowering students of color can contact firstname.lastname@example.org by February 15, 2019.