Minorities, Women Drowning Under Student Debt Loads

Americans carry more than $1 trillion of student debt, and the impact from the this kind of debt hits people from every walk of life. However, according to two new studies, minorities and women suffer greater repercussions from the loans they pile on to get through college – chiefly because they're the victims of a pay gap that has them earning less than their white male peers.

According to a report, of those who gradated with a bachelor's degree in 2008 and were employed in 2009, men outearned women by as much as $7,000 a year even when they were working in the same field and had graduated with the same major – business in this case. That pay gap means that a larger portion of the women's income went towards debt service than did her male coworkers'.

Women aren't the only ones who face larger barriers to repaying student debt. Statistics released by Campus Progress and the Center for American Progress in a 2012 report, "The Student Debt Crisis,"demonstrate how much heavier the student debt burden is for minorities.

The report states that 27 percent of black bachelor's degree holders had more than $30,500 in loans, compared with 16 percent of white bachelor's degree holders. More black students who left school without finishing a degree cited student debt as the reason than their white peers – 69 percent versus 43 percent – and 74 percent of Latinos who opted out of attending college cited finances as the reason, the report states.

The reasons behind the minority debt gap aren't nearly as straightforward. Minority students already graduate with a higher debt load than their white peers and, as a double whammy, also suffer higher rates of post-graduation unemployment, which greatly limits their ability to pay back the loan.

There are numerous other steps the Student Loan Ranger believes federal agencies and Congress should take. All institutions of higher education should have to adopt the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet so prospective students can easily understand the true cost of college and compare institutions. In many instances, low-income students may find that schools with higher tuition actually cost less when their eligibility for financial aid is factored in than nominally cheaper schools.

There are a number of measures in front of lawmakers to make the student loan landscape more equitable. Among them is the Know Before you Owe Act, which will give borrowers tools to make it easier for them to max out subsidized and unsubsidized federal loans before turning to more expensive private lenders to make up the rest.

And, as the National Consumer Law Center has repeatedly noted, there is a real need to provide relief for past victims of predatory lending and to ensure these practices will not continue.

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