Teachers College, Columbia University

Black-White Disparity in Student Loan Debt More Than Triples After Graduation

By Judith Scott-Clayton & Jing Li

Amidst the general public concern over rising levels of student loan debt, racial disparities have attracted increasing attention. Students of color are more likely to borrow, borrow more, and are more likely to default conditional on borrowing. Student loan delinquencies are also geographically concentrated in Black and Latino communities. These patterns are not fully explained by differences in parental income and wealth, indicating that postsecondary and labor market experiences also contribute to racial disparities in debt outcomes.

In this report the authors provide new evidence that the problem is even worse than previously understood. The authors find that four years after earning a bachelor’s degree, Black graduates have nearly $25,000 more student loan debt than their White peers: $52,726 on average, compared to $28,006 for the typical White BA graduate. This total debt gap is more than triple the previously-documented Black-White gap in undergraduate borrowing, which is “only” about $7,400 ($23,400 versus $16,000). Black college graduates are also three times more likely to default on their debt within four years of graduation.