• Description

Forty-five million Americans collectively owe $1.7 trillion in student loan debt, and women hold nearly two-thirds of it. But because of the gender pay gap, women are more likely than men to have trouble paying off their debt.[1] Black borrowers are the group most negatively affected by student loans, in large part because of systemic racism, the inequitable distribution of wealth, a stratified labor market, and rising college costs. Because Black women exist at the intersection of two marginalized identities and experience sexism and racism at the same time, they make less money and often need to borrow more to cover the cost of attendance, and struggle significantly with repayment.

Drawing on data from federal sources and our National Black Student Debt Study, How Black Women Experience Student Debt shows how the student debt crisis is the result of failed and intentionally racist policies.

The student debt crisis among Black women is the result of failed and intentionally racist policies. Policymakers must act. The Biden administration and Congress should take the following actions to end the student debt crisis and make college affordable for future students:

  1. More than 80% of the participants in the "Jim Crow Debt" study think the federal government should cancel all student debt. The Education Trust supports cancelling at least $50,000 of federal student debt and opposes limiting eligibility for cancellation by income, loan type, or degree type (e.g., undergraduate vs. graduate degree).
  2. In the absence of total broad-based debt cancellation, the Biden administration should make significant improvements to income-driven repayment (IDR) plans to make monthly payments more affordable, reduce negative amortization, and shorten the time-to-forgiveness window.
  3. To make college affordable, Congress should double the Pell Grant and create federal-state partnerships to make public college debt free.