More Black Students Leave College with Debt, Report States

A report released last week found that black students are more likely to graduate with higher student loan debt than other racial groups.

The report, authored by the College Board’s Education Advocacy and Policy Center, found 72 percent of all students graduate college with some debt from financial aid.

It also broke down proportions of students in debt by race and found 81 percent of black students left college with some student debt. By contrast, 64 percent of white students, 67 percent of Hispanic students and 60 percent of Asian students still owed money at graduation.

The report also said black students were more likely to graduate with high levels of debt, which the report defined as $30,500 or more. Twenty-seven percent of black graduates carried that amount of debt. The next closest group was white students, of which 16 percent owed high amounts of debt.

Sandy Baum, a professor emerita of economics at Skidmore College in New York, co-authored the report. Baum said the higher debt percentage among black students is not necessarily due to lower family income.

Baum also said the fact that black students typically have more debt could have any number of explanations.

"Potential explanations include lower asset levels among black families than other families with similar current incomes, differences in the proportion of students living at home while they are in college, differences in work patterns during college and differences in attitudes towards debt," Baum said.

Although family income is not directly correlated with high debt, the report said middle-class students from any racial group were more likely to be in debt than students from low-income or wealthy families.

According to the report, black students with debt also had the lowest average debt per student at $46,200. White students graduated with an average of $50,400, and Hispanic and Asian students owed, on average, $49,700 and $49,600, respectively.

Brenda Noblitt, assistant director of MU student financial aid, said the average federal loan debt for an undergraduate student this year is $20,814. Federal loan debt is the amount a student owes the government, including interest.

"The federal subsidized loan borrowed by an undergraduate student has a 6 percent fixed interest rate," Noblitt said. "The unsubsidized federal loan has a 6.8 percent fixed interest rate."

Noblitt said she did not have any data as to whether black students typically required more financial aid at MU.


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