The Federal Reserve Bank says that one in three students go into debt to achieve a college education and that the average student loan was $38,792, which was a record high, in 2020. In November 2021, the group owed $1.58 trillion in loans. A recent study shows that black students continue to incur more debt in loans than white students. Black students pay close to $25,000 more for college than white students and their peers. In 2016, a Department of Education study revealed that 70% of black students go into debt for post-secondary education as opposed to white students 56%. And black women carry more of that debt than any other student. The American Association of University Women say black women borrow $37,558 compared to white men who borrow $29,872.
The ACLU says systemic racism plays a role and that the high cost of higher education is only affordable if families incur debt. The group pushed for the Biden Administration to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per borrower last year and says that student debt cancellations would help close the racial wealth gap by more than 20 percent.
However, some funding relief for black students interested in technology is on the way. A $3 million federal funding grant for technology that decarbonizes power was recently announced by US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at South Carolina State University. According to the Biden administration, the goal is to do research to achieve carbon neutrality and increase the pipeline for HBCU students to energy related jobs. The funding would be administered to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority institutions.
But it will take more than funding initiatives to make an impact. And although higher education is encouraged to reduce poverty, it hasn’t eliminated income gaps between black and white families. According to Brookings Education, in 2019, “the average white family has roughly 10 times the amount of wealth as the average Black family, while white college graduates have over seven times more wealth than Black college graduates.”