Student loan relief highlights burden on black borrowers

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(AP) – Gabrielle Perry, a 29-year-old epidemiologist in New Orleans, expects $20,000 of her $135,000 student loan debt to be erased under the plan announced this week by the president Joe Biden. She is happy with the relief, but disappointed that it does not completely cancel the student debt which weighs particularly heavily on African Americans.

For her, it’s disheartening that Biden isn’t doing more to help a constituency that has played a vital role in his presidential campaign. Perry, who cares for and financially supports her disabled mother, said the bonds act as a societal tax on black people, preventing the growth of generational wealth.

“You make sure your little siblings have what they need for school,” Perry said. “You help your parents to pay their rent, their house. So your quote-unquote wealth doesn’t even have time to build because you’re trying to help your family survive.

President Joe Biden explains Wednesday that canceling student debt gives people a chance to move on with their lives. (BOWL)

According to federal education data, black borrowers have an average of about $40,000 in federal student debt, or $10,000 more than white borrowers. The disparity reflects a racial wealth gap in the United States – a gap that some supporters say the debt relief plan does not do enough to reduce.

One in four black borrowers would see their debt wiped out entirely under the administration’s plan, which forgive $10,000 of federal student loan debt for those whose income is less than $125,000 per year or households earning less than $250,000. The plan includes an additional $10,000 in aid for Pell Grant recipients, who are more than twice as likely to be black.

But more work needs to be done to make higher education accessible and affordable, said Wisdom Cole, national director of the NAACP Youth & College Division.

More than 40 million Americans could see their student loan debt reduced under President Joe Biden’s long-awaited forgiveness plan. (CNN)

“When we think about education and higher education, that’s fundamentally the promise of an equitable future,” Cole said. “We have so many black graduates coming through the system, graduating, and not being able to see that future because they are disproportionately at risk of taking out loans.”

Perry faced great challenges to complete her education. Homeless for almost a year, she had to drop out of school and saw the interest on her loans soar. She also risked incarceration. Eventually, she was able to have her record cleared and earned a master’s degree in public health from Tulane University, graduating just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic-era student loan repayment freeze, combined with increases at work, has given Perry a sense of stability for the first time in his life. She was able to pay for her car, help her disabled mother, and start a non-profit organization, the Thurman Perry Foundation, which provides college scholarships to currently or formerly incarcerated women and their daughters.

“This time with this payment break, it didn’t just build my life,” Perry said. “It even helped me lift my mother out of poverty. I took her to a safer place to live. It trickled down to people like me. Because I know there are other people who live worse than what I survived.

Black students are more likely to take on debt to fund their education, and for larger amounts, in part because of the wealth gap that makes it less likely that black families will be able to fund college. studies of their children.

During his first few months of grad school, before his scholarship salary kicked in, TC Headley called the university’s financial aid office to ask if there was any help to cover the cost. books and supplies. Instead, the woman on the phone told him to call his parents and ask for more money.

“I can’t just call my parents for thousands of dollars,” she said. “The only other option to get that money in time was to take out a loan. I did what I had to do so I could support myself and stay in school.

Headley, who owes about $40,000 in student debt, had put off the idea of ​​owning a home or starting a family because she was so focused on paying it off. Now she expects half of that to be forgiven because she was a Pell Grant recipient.

While white families are more likely to see a transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, the reverse is true for black families, where children are more likely to have to support a parent once. that they got some level of financial security, said Andre M. Perry, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

“For many black women, and black people in general, many middle-income people are being missed by this policy,” Andre M. Perry said. “We did everything we were asked to do to move forward. Go to college, go to the best schools, we are told. And as a result, we had to go into debt.

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Associated Press writer Sharon Lurye in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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The Associated Press’ reporting on issues of race and ethnicity is supported in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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