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The Complicated Relationship Between Black Wealth and Education

Episode 5 of The Pay Check takes a hard look at affirmative action and its promises and failures. 

Members of the graduating class at Howard University listen to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commencement Address.

Members of the graduating class at Howard University listen to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commencement Address.

Photographer: LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okam

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For Black Americans, the prospect of student debt forgiveness, currently under consideration by President Joe Biden, would be especially welcome. 

As the cost of college has skyrocketed, student debt burdens have, too, with minorities carrying the brunt of those financial obligations. Black students are more likely to take on debt to pay for school, studies have found, and they’re also likely to have higher debt burdens, compared to White graduates who take out loans. 

Black college students owe, on average, $7,400 more than their White peers on graduation day, 2016 research by the Brookings Institution found. Four years later, those same Black students owe almost $25,000 more than White students, due to differences in repayment and default rates.