Money Talks, Not Walks

BET.com speaks with a Spelman College graduate who faces the reality of debt after graduation.

Posted: 05/18/2011 02:18 PM EDT

This past Sunday, Spelman College graduate Gina White walked across the graduation stage, but as she closes the college chapter in her life, there are a lot of new hardships ahead: two of them being debt and real employment.

 

On average, 2011 graduates are leaving college with about $22,900 in student loans nationwide. In fact, they have been named the most indebted ever, according to the National Center for Education.

 

But although $22,000 sounds like a lot of money to have hanging over your head, White, similar to many other African-Americans, is much deeper in dept. How much? About $90,000 she estimates.

 

Studies have shown that Blacks disproportionately borrow the most because they are more likely to attend private non-profit or for-profit colleges, opposed to public four-year colleges.

 

Prior to her freshman year, White was accepted into many public institutions including the University of Georgia and Ohio State University. As a trained gymnast she was positive that she was going to receive a sports scholarship to OSU. Her parents were excited that the remainder could be paid with in-state tuition. That same school year, however, White tore her meniscus in her knee and decided not to undergo surgery. With that in consideration, and after visiting Spelman College, she decided that she would attend the all-female school—no matter the personal cost.

 

“HBCU’s don’t have the money to offer everyone scholarships,” White tells BET.com, “but Atlanta was the place I wanted to be.”

 

Though White does not regret her decision to attend the institution, she now faces a stark reality. “I start [loan] payments back to Sally Mae in July. I just got a job at the bank. I’m working as a teller and I teach gymnastics on the side. Right now I’m saving 25% of my paycheck to pay back my loans,” she says.

 

Thankfully White was able to find a form of employment after graduation. Last year the unemployment rate for college graduates was the highest (9.4 percent) that it had been since the Labor Department started keeping records in 1985.

 

White is, however, part of the 18 percent of recent grads who have been forced to turn to a full-time job outside of his or her field of study. She majored in Biology at Spelman College.

 

Recent graduates are also making approximately $36,866 per year in salary, down from $46,500 in 2009, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute. Because of lower salaries, 17 percent of new grads are dependent on their parents.

 

White admits that it will probably take her about 15 years to pay off her debt.

 

Although she calls it “scary” when realizing that she will accumulate more debt in her pursuit to attend dental school next year, she affirmatively states "it’s something I have to do to get where I wanna be.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Gina White)

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