The $1.6 trillion student debt crisis is holding back many Americans, but it is especially damaging to racial equality. Already disadvantaged by generational wealth disparities, Black students and their families end up paying more for college than white families do, and they get a lot less in the end. To build a higher education system that fosters equality, it’s necessary to bring together two policy conversations: research on higher education access and research on the racial wealth gap.
In Bridging Progressive Policy Debates: How Student Debt and the Racial Wealth Gap Reinforce Each Other, Roosevelt Fellow Suzanne Kahn and her co-authors Mark Huelsman (Demos) and Jen Mishory (The Century Foundation) demonstrate a clear picture: High student debt levels and systemic racism have created a vicious cycle for Black students. Tracing the historic policy decisions that have shaped structural racial inequities, the report examines how the dual burdens of less wealth and more debt have posed unequal risks for Black students and families—and led to worse outcomes. Ultimately, the authors underscore the need to rewrite higher education policy with a racial lens.
To build a higher education system that advances the economic mobility and equality of progressive ideals, policy debates must come together to tackle structural racism and address the unequal risks that our economy creates for Black families.