From coast to coast, Americans are closely watching and dreading the upcoming end to the federal student loan payment pause. Borrowers in some states, however, have more debt than others.
For Black people, the lasting effects of their debt depend on where they live which is often in those same states with higher debts owed per borrower.
A new CreditDonkey analysis comparing all 50 U.S. states found the top 10 with the highest student debt per borrower. Those top states, in order, are Maryland, Georgia, Delaware, Virginia, New York, Florida, Oregon, Illinois, California, and Alabama.
Data from Pew Research Center adds another layer to this picture. At least eight of these states rank highly among those with the largest Black populations. Combined with the reality that Black students hold more student loan debt than any other racial or ethnic group, with a median of $30,000 owed.
Saddled with such a large amount of debt, many attempt to find their footing in places with higher costs of living.
For example, over 3 million Black people call the New York City metro area home — the nation’s largest Black population. Fortuna Admissions co-founder Caroline Diarte Edwards says places like this are hubs for career opportunities.
“The big cities offer unmatched career opportunities, leading many Black Americans to take risks and move to them despite the high student loan debt and cost of living,” Edwards says.
Indeed, paying rent on a market-rate apartment in a major city, on top of hefty student loan payments, is a sobering prospect.
The analysis revealed that Maryland — which is 29.5% Black — has the highest average loan debt per borrower at $42,543, with 864,000 total borrowers. Georgia — 31% Black — is in a close second with $41,826 per borrower and 1.6 million total borrowers.
For those who borrow, this debt creeps into other aspects of their lives. But, it uniquely impacts Black people and communities — especially in the long term.
One of those long-term effects is the inability to become a homeowner. Homeownership is a gateway to generational wealth.
“Homeownership is more difficult to realize for student loan borrowers,” Jennifer Ledwith, a Certified Financial Planner and the founder of Scholar Ready, tells Word In Black. Scholar Ready helps high school students prepare for the ACT and SAT exams, and assists with college admission and scholarship essays.
Student loan payments can be a large chunk of borrowers’ budgets, making it difficult to save for a downpayment and other life experiences.
Ledwith says student debt also affects Black families’ ability to invest academically in their children’s education and communities.
“Student loan expenses prevent African American parents from having the discretionary income required to supplement their children’s education,” she says.
Full participation in the cultural and civic life of a community is tougher too, with student loan debt. Ledwith says that’s because if money is going to student loan servicers, they have less for community organizations like schools, museums, hospitals, art organizations, and churches.
“For African-Americans’ voices to be heard, they must participate,” Ledwith says. “Often, participation requires a financial commitment that student loan payments make impossible.”
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