In 2020, the amount of student loans owed by millions of American college graduates hovered around $1.7 trillion. Of that, women overall held a majority share –– $929 billion. Now a new report shows the burden of student loan debt is weighing heavier on Black women.
A recently released report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that Black women in the United States owe on average 22% more in student loan debt than white women. Black women, the report found, carry an average of $41,466 in student loan debt, while white women owe an average of $33,851. If a Black woman attends graduate school, that average debt increases to $75,085 compared to an average of $56,098 for white women.
The findings and what they mean for the financial situations for millions of Black women and families is “deeply concerning.”
“While there are more Black women enrolled in higher education than ever before, it’s deeply concerning that Black women hold so much more student debt than their white counterparts,” Kim Churches, CEO of AAUW, told CNBC. “Sadly, though, it’s unsurprising: It’s a stark reflection of the wide racial wealth gap in our country that leaves Black families with less money to contribute to higher education,” Churches added.
The inequality also stretches to pay across gender and education levels. An estimate by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) finds that a woman with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $61,000, which is approximately the same salary of a man who holds an associate’s degree.
“In terms of repayment of those loans, you have women who are taking out high and higher loans and their ability to repay is influenced by their lower wages,” Nicole Smith, chief economist at the Georgetown CEW, told the outlet.
Black women also earn less than white women and men, making repayment and the financial impact of student loans “another example of how deeply rooted systemic racism continues to disadvantage Black households,” Churches said.
“Making certain Black women can comfortably access and afford that education should be a top policy priority,” Churches added. “Our entire society pays a high price for this kind of inequity, and it’s imperative we work to correct it.”