In a Salon piece, Kai Wright explains why we all need to take a look at the economic structures that are causing degree-seeking students to take on a boatload of student-loan debt. He argues that the wealth for-profit universities are amassing at the expense of black Americans is akin to the subprime-mortgage fiasco that engulfed the nation's economy in 2008.
But this headlong rush of black Americans to get schooled has also led too many down a depressingly familiar path. As with the mortgage market of the pre-crash era, those who are just entering in the higher ed game have found themselves ripe for the con man’s picking. They’ve landed, disproportionately, at for-profit schools, rather than at far less expensive public community colleges, or at public universities. And that means they’ve found themselves loaded with unimaginable debt, with little to show for it, while a small group of financial players have made a great deal of easy money. Sound familiar? Two points if you hear troublesome echoes of the subprime mortgage crisis …
These numbers mirror a simultaneous trend in eroding security among ambitious black Americans with shrinking access to middle-class jobs. It’s true that the country’s middle class is collapsing for everyone, but that trend is most profound among African-Americans. In 2008, as black folks flocked into higher ed, the Economic Policy Institute found that 45 percent of African-Americans born into the middle class were living at or near poverty as adults.
For too many, school has greased the downward slide. Nearly every single graduate of a for-profit school — 96 percent, according to a 2008 Department of Education survey — leaves with debt. The industry ate 25 percent of federal student aid in the 2009–2010 school year. That’s debt its students can’t pay. The loan default rate among for-profit college students is more than double that of their peers in both public and nonprofit private schools, because the degrees and certificates the students are earning are trap doors to more poverty, not springboards to prosperity.
Read Kai Wright's entire piece at Salon.
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.