In Too Deep: Study Shows Black Women Carry The Largest Load Of Student Loan Debt
Just this past week my best friend revealed to me that she was withdrawing from the MSW program that she enrolled in on-line after feeling lost in the whole process, bored and unmotivated. In my attempt to support her, I couldn’t help but recall a conversation we had a few months ago in which I encouraged her to truly think long and hard about attempting her Master’s degree in this way for the second time. She had entered on-line classes a few years ago and found herself frustrated by an experience in which she seemed to be teaching herself, all the while accruing more student loan debt while not having a degree to show for it in the end. Many students today get lost in the excitement of pursuing a higher education and it’s all too easy to sign on the dotted line comforted by the idea of, “Well, I’m going to be in debt anyway.” Unfortunately, in the long run many women are finding themselves burdened by crippling student loan debt, impeding everything from their credit score to their ability to get an affordable car payment. Student loan debt is a real crisis for so many in this country, but for black women, the debt might just be a state of emergency.
The good news is that black women remain the most educated demographic in America, but that education is coming with a pretty expensive price tag. The study “Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans” by the American Association of University Women reports that African-American women amass an average of $30,400 of debt by college graduation, compared with $22,000 held against white women and $19,500 held against white men. In addition, women overall owe almost double the country’s student loan debt at $890 billion, compared to $490 billion owed by men.
Kim Churches, Executive Director of AAUW explains that the staggering amounts of student loan debt that women carry into careers is only made that much harder to handle when facing the gender pay gap:
“Student debt levels have reached an all-time high, with women carrying a bigger burden of debt than men.”
“This debt is an albatross for many women as they embark on careers and work to support their households and families. And, it only gets worse over time when coupled with the gender pay gap.”
CBS News reports women account for 56 percent of enrolled college students and are far more likely than men to graduate owing money at 71 percent for female graduates and 66 percent for male graduates. Even with higher graduation rates, with black women making 63 cents for every dollar that a white man makes, it’s taking them much longer to break it off for good with Sallie Mae.
Churches says although there are many complexities to the issue, ultimately the situation is unfair:
“The imbalances compound. Higher student debt, lower pay, child and family care costs, and other factors all add up to leave women at a deficit as they work to maintain financial security. With women leading more households today, enough is enough. Solutions are needed now.”
The report offers some alternative approaches to funding higher education so this problem no longer plagues all graduates, but women especially, including increasing state and federal funding of public colleges and universities and safeguarding and expanding Pell Grants for low-income students.
Why do you think Black women borrow so much more in the first place and what are some methods you’ve used to significantly pay off your student loan debt?