The student debt crisis has hit an all-time high in recent years, with over 44 million borrowers owing roughly $1.5 trillion in the U.S., and graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities are affected the most.
HBCUs were once formed to establish higher education opportunities for people who were not allowed to attend other four-year institutions. However, these schools are now disproportionately suffering financially and the burden rests on the shoulders of the students, according to a front page report in the Wall Street Journal.
Unlike many other non-profit and public schools, HBCUs were not awarded the same endowments to help students pay for college. Due to the lack of financial resources, more students at HBCUs have to take out massive loans just to pay for college.
According to the WSJ’s report, the median student loan debt of an HBCU graduate is around $29,000, which is 32% higher than graduates of other public and nonprofit four-year schools. Additionally, most graduates of HBCUs haven’t been able to put any money towards the initial balance of their loan in their first years out of school.
Although HBCUs only make up 5% of four-year institutions in the country, they represent 50% of the 100 schools with the lowest three-year student-loan repayment rates.
One of the major reasons why the situation has become so dire is that Black families hold the "least wealth of the largest U.S. racial groups," according to the report. And with the cost of HBCUs on the rise, Black families have found themselves paying more for school without seeing much rise in their average household income.
25-year-old Theo Dorsey graduated from Hampton University in 2015 with $20,500 in student loan debt. Although he’s tried to make a payment on the loan every month, Dorsey, who now works as a television reporter in Greensboro, N.C., still owes nearly $20,000 due to interest rates.
“Bills and loans eat up most of my checks as is,” Dorsey told the WSJ. He said he earns less than $50,000 a year and feels like the “odds are kind of stacked up against me.”
About half of Black borrowers who belong to freshman classes at any institution of higher learning in the 2003-2004 school year defaulted on a student loan within 12 years, a rate that is twice as high as white borrowers, according to a June 2018 paper by Columbia University associate professor Judith Scott-Clayton.
Now colleges are attempting to come up with solutions, requiring students to work part time on campus or trying to steer students towards majors with high-paying jobs. While the solutions may create some relief, they will not completely eradicate the issue as we know it.
For HBCUs to stop crippling students with debt, they’ll need additional funding from the government, something HBCU presidents have long advocated for in Washington, D.C.
(Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)