Black Women, America’s Most Educated Demographic, Is Bearing the Brunt of the Student Loan Debt Crisis

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Black Women Student Loan Debt
Black women amass an average of $30,400 in debt by graduation, according to the study. (Photo by Sam Edwards / Getty Images)

The nation’s student loan debt crisis has proved more than burdensome for Black women, who, by far, have the most outstanding student loan debt after graduating college, a new study reports.

Black women have been pegged as the most educated demographic in America — yet the acclaim has left many drowning in thousands of dollars worth of debt with no end in sight. A recently released report from the American Association of University Women, or AAUW, showed that Black women average about $30,400 in debt by graduation compared to the $22,000 amassed by white women and $19,500 white men owe.

The report, titled “Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans,” analyzed data from the U.S. Education Department from the 2015-2016 school year and found that women hold nearly two-thirds ($890 billion) of the nation’s $1.4-trillion student debt, while men hold $490 billion. What’s worse, women, who account for 56 percent of enrolled college students, now graduate with $2,700 more debt than their male peers when pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

“Student debt levels have reached an all-time high, with women carrying a bigger burden of debt than men,” said Kim Churches, chief executive officer of AAUW. “This debt is an albatross for many women as they embark on careers and work to support their households and families. And, it only gets worse over time when coupled with the gender pay gap.”

College educated Black women fare much worse under this financial burden, however, as they earn 37 percent and 34 percent less, respectively than white men with degrees, thanks to the growing gender and racial wage gap. Because of this, it often takes them longer to pay back their loans, according to the report.

“It’s a real problem and it’s a problem with a distinct gender component,” said Anne Hedgepath, the AAUW’s director of federal policy. ” … Obviously, it has an impact on women’s economic security, so it can certainly have an influence on their ability to pay rent or their health care.”

To help reduce the gender gap in student borrowing, the AAUW recommended increasing aid for low-income students, strengthening the Pell Grant program and providing loan forgiveness for students who pursue careers in public service, among other things.

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