HBCU Graduates Face Higher Debt and Lower Earnings


A recent study by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) sheds light on the economic disparities faced by graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) compared to their peers from non-HBCUs.

The study reveals significant gaps in both earnings and student debt levels, highlighting the challenges that HBCU graduates encounter in achieving financial stability and upward mobility.

 HBCU Graduates Face Higher Debt and Lower Earnings
(Photo : UNSPLASH / Towfiqu barbhuiya)
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Income Disparities a Decade After Graduation

According to the TICAS brief, HBCU graduates earn substantially less than their counterparts from non-HBCUs, even a decade after starting college. The median annual salary for HBCU alumni stands at $37,920, a staggering $16,600 lower than the median salary of $54,557 for graduates from non-HBCUs. This income gap underscores the enduring economic challenges faced by HBCU graduates as they navigate the workforce, inhibiting their ability to build wealth and financial security.

Burden of Student Loan Debt

The study also reveals alarming disparities in student loan debt among HBCU graduates compared to those from non-HBCUs. A decade after entering repayment, student loan borrowers who attended HBCUs owed 130 percent more than their original loan balance, significantly higher than the 67 percent owed by borrowers from non-HBCUs. This disproportionate burden of student loan debt exacerbates the financial strain on HBCU graduates, hindering their financial freedom and economic opportunities.

Impact of Systemic Racism and Underfunding

The findings of the TICAS brief highlight the systemic challenges rooted in racism and chronic underfunding that contribute to the economic disparities faced by HBCU graduates. Chronic underinvestment in HBCUs has perpetuated inequities in resources, infrastructure, and educational opportunities, limiting the ability of these institutions to provide students with the support and resources necessary for success. As a result, HBCU graduates often face greater financial challenges upon entering the workforce, impeding their ability to achieve economic mobility and prosperity.

The brief suggests that the findings align with prior studies, indicating that students at HBCUs tend to borrow more, accumulate greater debt, and face lower repayment rates than their counterparts at non-HBCUs. It further highlights how systemic racism, including chronic underfunding of HBCUs, undermines the value of a college degree for Black students, thereby limiting their potential for economic mobility.

Addressing the Root Causes

To address the economic disparities faced by HBCU graduates, policymakers and institutions must confront the systemic inequities that underlie these challenges. This includes increasing investment in HBCUs to ensure equitable resources and opportunities for students, as well as implementing policies that alleviate the burden of student loan debt and promote economic empowerment. Additionally, efforts to dismantle systemic racism and promote equity in higher education are essential to creating an inclusive and equitable environment where all students can thrive.

In conclusion, the findings of the TICAS brief underscore the urgent need to address the economic disparities faced by HBCU graduates and to confront the systemic inequities that perpetuate these challenges. By investing in HBCUs, addressing student loan debt, and dismantling systemic racism, we can create a more equitable higher education system that empowers all students to achieve their full potential.

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