Two different school years started during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even for Fall 2021, the second school year — and 18 months and several vaccine options later — the pandemic is still impacting our lives. 

The latest round of Household Pulse surveys from the Census Bureau shows that in the six surveys since August, only 40% of Black respondents have reported no change to their higher education plans. This is compared to 44% of white, 43% of Asian, and 35% of Hispanic respondents.

However, HBCU applications have soared during the pandemic, with Baltimore’s Morgan State University seeing as much as a 60% bump in prospective students. Meanwhile, college enrollment has been falling nationwide at a steady decline since the beginning of the pandemic.

Black respondents also reported the highest rate, at 19%, of having to completely cancel all plans for higher education. This is compared to 16% of Hispanic, 13% of white, and only 9% of Asian respondents.

Unfortunately, the survey results do not show the reasons for change by race or ethnicity. But the top reasons related to having to cancel all plans to take classes were not being able to pay educational expenses due to a pandemic-related financial change (57%) and caring for others “whose arrangements are disrupted” (54%).

We also know that student loan debt is breaking the backs of Black students. Even before the pandemic and its financial strains, Black people owed more money and had less financial means to pay it back, the AFRO wrote. Further, a CNBC report found that about 87% of Black college students take out loans to attend school, compared to only about 60% of white students.

Maya Pottiger is a data journalist for Word in Black. She was previously a data journalist for the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland, where she earned both her BA and Master of Journalism. Her work has been featured...