Campaign urges candidates to focus on Black student debt crisis

By Diane Bernard

Concerned student debt hits Black students hardest, the NAACP is taking to Twitter today in a campaign to make sure presidential candidates prioritize reducing college debt in their education policy platforms.
In Virginia, research shows almost 70 percent of students of color took out expensive loans between 2013 and 2018. In an online event announcing the Twitter drive, Keron Blair, executive director at the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, pointed to the legacy of institutional racism as one reason for disparities.
He said the risks of life-long debt and the rising costs of higher education are preventing more Black students from entering college.
“Student debt is out of control and it disrupts Black people’s ability to live decently,” he said. “Home ownership, buying a new car, starting a small business, these are real things that impact everyday Black people who are living under the crushing weight of student debt.”
Blair and other experts at the forum are urging candidates to propose canceling student debt altogether. They also say state legislators should consider innovative programs such as tax credits for loan relief and more funding for historically Black colleges and universities.
The campaign is tied to a new report that shows Black women carry almost 50 percent more student debt than white men and 27 percent more than white women.
Report co-author Charles Davis, assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Education, said disparities also exist in Black college graduation rates, leaving students saddled with debt and no diploma to show for it. He cites the lack of support for Black students, including not having enough Black faculty to give a sense of belonging.
“We are having Black students and their families and communities incur substantial levels of debt, all the while not having equitable experiences and outcomes that you would see consistent across other racial groups,” Davis said.
This year, the Virginia Legislature passed S.B. 77, the Student Loan Bill of Rights that requires the state’s financial watchdog to regulate loan providers. Now providers will be monitored to make sure they don’t misrepresent terms of a loan or misapply payments.

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