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Updated: September 29, 2022 @ 10:15 am
The statistical differential is staggering.
White college graduates have over seven times more wealth than Black college graduates, according to Contexts, a social research magazine.
So it’s no surprise that Black graduates often take on more debt to get a degree and then have more difficulty paying off that debt.
In this light, President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel $20,000 in debt for recipients of Pell Grants and $10,000 in debt for other qualified student loans is merely a shortsighted solution to a longstanding problem, particularly for Black students.
In a recent news article by CNHI State Reporter Carson Gerber, 2010 Ball State University graduate Ibrahim Tanner, who is Black, shared his story.
Twelve years after earning his degree, the 39-year-old Tanner, who owns an Indianapolis trucking company, still owes $35,000 in student loans.
That will drop by more than half, thanks to the Biden plan. But Tanner, like thousands of other Black graduates, will continue to be saddled with significant student debt.
The Biden administration claims the loan forgiveness plan will advance racial equity for Black students, who are more likely to borrow for school and to take out larger loans. Black students, the administration notes, are twice as likely as white students to receive Pell Grants.
Tanner acknowledges that the Biden program will cover more than half of his remaining student loans. But he also sees clearly that mounting loan debt will continue to be a serious problem for Black students.
“Biden’s initiative is a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” he said. “I think what you’re essentially seeing is the racial wealth gap grow larger.”
According to the Education Data Initiative, Black college graduates owe on average $25,000 more than white college graduates in student loan debt. In fact, four years after graduation, 48% of Black students owe an average of 13% more than they borrowed.
A study by the Brookings Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., found that a college degree does not reduce the income gaps between white and Black workers. It can even contribute to that divide.
So, while Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan will be a godsend to student loan debtors of all races, it really doesn’t address the systemic inequities woven into the nation’s higher education and economic systems.
Moving forward, it won’t change much for those who accumulate student loan debt.
A long-range solution is desperately needed to assure that all students seeking a college degree can afford it, and to close permanently the racial gap for those seeking a higher education.
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