Senate Democrats Address Debt of Students of Color

January 7, 2019

U.S. senators Doug Jones, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Catherine Cortez-Masto sent nearly 100 letters to education policy experts, business leaders and civil rights advocates asking them their thoughts on how to address racial disparities in student debt.

"Students of color are more likely to borrow, borrow in greater amounts, and are less likely to be able to pay down their debt than their white peers -- even if they graduate," the senators wrote in their letter. "This disproportionate debt burden can cause significant financial distress and affect their ability to build their path to the middle class, a key goal of the federal financial aid investment."

The letter outlines that black and Latino students owe more than 100 percent of their loan balance 12 years after first entering college, even after they complete a degree. Meanwhile, white students owe between 47 and 70 percent of their loan balance, depending on the credential they obtained.

"Even among bachelor's degree graduates, the African-American-white debt gap more than triples after graduation, due to differences in interest accrual, graduate school borrowing, and ongoing deeper issues related to labor market discrimination, racialized economic hardships, and familial wealth," the senators wrote. "These outcomes are staggering and unacceptable. As members of Congress, we are committed to doing better for these students and ask for your assistance in defining specific proposals the federal government can take to address these disparities."

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