The presidential campaign has raised visibility on the heavy loads of debt carried by college students, but researchers just discovered something that people haven’t been talking about: the racial gap in college debt.
A new study in Children and Youth Services Review concludes that even when controlling for differences in socioeconomic status, black and Hispanic students face the prospect of more debt than white students do.
Black and Hispanic students are both more likely to take on debt and to take on more debt than white and Asian students, they found. (Asian students are 40% less likely than whites to borrow for college, the study reports.) The result is a significant race gap in overall student-debt burdens. The black-white gap for low- and middle-income respondents is estimated to be $7,700, a disparity about twice as wide as that found in previous studies.
Why are the debt gaps between races so stark? White and Asian students even from families with low and moderate incomes may have access to greater economic support from their family. A separate recent study found that black students receive less help paying for college from their parents compared with white students who have similar levels of family wealth. It’s also possible that there are different attitudes toward taking on debt between people in particular racial categories.
But the most likely explanation for the race gap, the study suggested, is that black and Hispanic students go to different post-secondary institutions. In particular, they are more likely to attend for-profit schools, which are poor value for money by comparison to state schools and other colleges.