A closer look at debt among students of color

Four U.S. Senate Democrats — including expected presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) — are seeking feedback from more than 100 stakeholders on how to improve federal policies for student borrowers of color and make access to higher education more equitable.

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (Alabama) last week sent a letter to key stakeholders nationwide, including experts in education policy and leaders in business, advocacy, academia, civil rights, consumer protection and women’s issues. Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto (New Mexico), Kamala Harris (California) and Warren co-signed the letter. Jones and Warren serve on the Senate committee that oversees education.

“Students of color are more likely to borrow, borrow in greater amounts, and are less likely to be able to pay down their debt than their white peers – even if they graduate,” they wrote. “This disproportionate debt burden can cause significant financial distress and affect their ability to build their path to the middle class, a key goal of the federal financial aid investment.”

More than half of Latino students do not complete college with a degree or certificate within six years, despite entering college at higher rates than previously and being the nation’s third fastest-growing racial or ethnic group, the letter said. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of African-American students enrolled in college don’t complete within six years.

The senators noted that not all students of color are represented in available data, citing that Southeast Asians are often not included in analyses because they are often lumped into a larger “Asian” category. Asians are the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. and are expected to become the largest immigrant population in the country by 2055, the letter said. (Read related story: A better understanding of Asian students’ needs)

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