College Guide


November 05, 2012 11:00 AM The Debt Burden and Students of Color

By Daniel Luzer

The average college graduate now holds $26,600 in debt upon graduation. This is a large number, and one that seems to increase with every graduation class, but it’s not a particularly surprising figure, in and of itself.

But this number isn’t evenly distributed across the graduating class. In fact, according to a recent report by Campus Progress and the Center for American Progress, students of color have greater debt problems. The paper reveals that:

African American and Latino students are especially saddled with student debt, with 81 percent of African American students and 67 percent of Latino students who earned bachelor’s degrees leaving school with debt. This compares to 64 percent of white students who graduate with debt.

In addition,

27 percent of black bachelor’s degree earners had more than $30,500 in debt compared to 16 percent for their white counterparts. Compared to 43 percent of their white peers, 69 percent of black students listed student debt loads as a key reason for dropping out.
74 percent of young Latinos opted out of attending colleges at all, citing financial reasons… as unique barriers to enrollment.

Remember this when we wonder in 20 years or so why the educational attainment rate of ethnic minorities remains lower than that of the rest of the population. Seriously, it’s all about the debt.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on November 05, 2012 3:42 PM:

    Yep, the debt and sub-par K-12 education that a lot of minorities have the misfortune to experience. If I'm not mistaken, a large percentage of minorities still attend schools that are primarily AA or Hispanic/Latino in student body composition or a significant part of the student body qualifies for free lunch, what with housing patterns and school districting rules. That's not bad in and of itself, it's just that poor school districts, by and large, are facing the wind with regards to college track preparation.

    The cost of attending higher ed could be mitigated by scholarships and grants, but even those awards seem hard to come by since "need-based" awards are like the dirty step-child to "merit-based" awards, which tend to favor the well-educated/well-situated demographic who can afford boarding schools, private tutors, SAT coaches, and admissions application consultants.

    I went to high school in a rural/southern predominately black school district, and seriously, the only black students that got full rides to go to college were the football and basketball players. (Actually, of all students black/white/latino--the athletes were the only ones who got full rides now that I think about it.) Many students like myself could get partial scholarships and grants, but we still had to take out loans to cover the balance. And that balance is understandably the source of much sticker shock these days, which many 1st-generation college goers are not prepared for.