What Is the Real Cost of Student Loan Debt to Black Families?

Two financial experts explain.

Not all student loan debt is created equal. 

Experts say that a greater proportion of African American students borrow in order to attain their college degrees, says Dr. Brian Bridges, United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Vice-president of research and member engagement. “They take out higher amounts, they take out a wider range of loans — so, not just federal loans, but also private loans and state-based loans.”

RELATED: BET NEWS SPECIAL: Young, Gifted & Broke

Here’s a snapshot of the devastating impact on Black families:

  • In 2016 alone, about 85 percent of Black graduates took on debt to finance their undergraduate degrees.

Nearly 49 percent of Black borrowers who entered school in 2003–2004 as undergraduates had defaulted on their loans by 2016. 

Sometimes, says John King, Jr. CEO, The Education Trust, the borrowing affects other members of the student’s family. “They borrow themselves, or they ask their parents to borrow money for them, and they’re trapped,” he reveals. “They have this debt they need to pay off, but they can’t get the job they need to pay it off. And their family member is trapped, as well, because they’ve taken out loans to support them.”

A web of systemic disadvantages makes it even harder for Black students to climb out of student debt, which has a ripple effect on them for the rest of their lives. 

The facts may not be encouraging, but knowing them will hopefully empower students to make better decisions for themselves in the short term, and push for greater change in the future. 

To learn more about the state of Black student debt — and how HBCUs are affected in particular, watch the video below.


Angela Rye’s BET NEWS primetime special, Young, Gifted & Broke: Our Student Loan Crisiswill air on BET on Sunday, September 15, 2019, at 8:00 p.m. ET.


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