Are You Young, Black and Drowning in Student-Loan Debt?

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You’re young, black, educated and saddled with a personal investment in yourself, aka student-loan debt.

Student-loan debt is a real and present issue. Nationally, college graduates and students have racked up $1.3 trillion in student-loan debt, with black and low-income students taking on a disproportionate share. The overall amount of student-loan debt surpasses credit card debt and car loans. It is estimated that by 2025, the amount of student-loan debt will double, according to the Congressional Budget Office.


Sure, a college degree is not a requirement in order to live an economically comfortable life in America. But it is a foundation that many employers seek and reward. Beyond grades, those who attend college can more than likely attest that they studied a specific field; are capable of working independently and in teams; and can retain, understand and apply information learned in class.

Eighty percent of black students accepted into college will finance their undergraduate degree.

On average, they will then accumulate more than $30,000 in debt, about $4,000 more than their white counterparts. Yet both groups of graduates will walk away with the same cream, crisp piece of paper to show the completion of their college careers. In addition, minority students are more likely to take out student loans to obtain an associate degree. Plus, more minorities are attending for-profit schools, where the costs are higher, leaving them in even more debt. Too many minorities and low-income students are carrying burdens too heavy for them ever to lift.

About 40 percent of black students drop out of college, more than their white and Hispanic counterparts. And these students are still responsible for the loans they took out while enrolled. Unfortunately, many will realize that the best jobs are out of reach because they did not complete their degrees.


Several of the Republican presidential candidates understand the pain of trying to make that monthly loan payment, trying to apply for another loan, considering going back to school or hanging in the balance about whether to open your dream business.

Here are their proposals.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has co-sponsored the Right to Know Before You Go Act, the Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act and the Investing in Student Success Act. These three bills will reform how student loans operate and how they affect college students’ futures.


Rubio knows the negative impact of student loans. He managed to rack up more than $100,000 for his bachelor’s and law degrees. If his bills become law, students will not only benefit from affordable college but will also be free from a financial morass that blocks their ability to pursue their dreams.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has spoken out about how he would assist students neck deep in college-loan debt. Bush promises to decrease the cost of college. As governor of Florida, Bush reformed the education system to increase opportunities for all students, especially minorities. He was also a job creator, which is important for students leaving college. Black students still have a harder time finding a job, and when they do, it is often at a lower salary than their white counterparts earn.


Presidential contender Donald Trump is opposed to the government making money off of our student loans. He is referring to the interest that students pay on loans from the government. Undergraduate loans are at 4.66 percent, and graduate loans are at 6.21 and 7.21 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee would like to see interest rates capped.

Dr. Ben Carson and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund in 1994 to help fourth- to 11th-graders with future college expenses. In 2014 he said, “Many people get into financial strife because they don’t understand the importance of work. …There’s nothing wrong with working a few years before going to school.” He is a strong believer in personal responsibility and hard work, and opposes President Barack Obama’s free-community-college plan.


In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich proposed a $120 million debt-relief plan for college students. The plan would require students to attend a state school and take a job with the state. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) would like to see tuition become tax-deductible. His idea would definitely benefit middle-class families working to send their children to college.

I believe that a part of the American dream is access to opportunities, and higher education is one of those. I also know the pain of student loans, having attended a private law school in Florida. The amount I borrowed to attend can be likened to the price of my first house.


Yes, students decide to attend college, but it should not be at the expense of their future. As we all watch the presidential campaigns, and as we pick a candidate, let’s be sure the candidate has a sensible, achievable plan to rein in student-loan debt and make college more affordable.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.


Chelsi Henry is a Florida-based attorney, political strategist and entrepreneur. You can contact her at or tweet her here.

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