In 2015, an organization called Demos released a report stating that 81 percent of all African Americans who completed a four-year degree left college with debt, while 57 percent borrowed to complete their two-year degree. In contrast, only 63 percent of Caucasians took out loans for their bachelor’s degree, and 43% borrowed for their associate’s degree.
In addition, a 2007 study released by Education Sector found that African Americans were five times as likely to default on their loans, and Hispanics were twice as likely. Flash forward to today, and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth shows that minority groups continue to have high default rates.
Now, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) is creating a coalition. Their goal is to enhance the way minorities use student loans. The goal is to allow them to improve their way of life through education, as opposed to getting deeper into debt.
The coalition wants to work with the Department of Education to glean more information on how minorities use student loans. The only problem is the Department of Education said they do not track this type of information.
Still, the National Consumer Law Center and 29 civil and legal rights groups are petitioning the government to start collecting and reporting on the range of racial gaps that take place within the student loan system. The petition writes:
“For nearly a decade, the Department of Education has known that student debt impacts borrowers of color differently from white borrowers. Yet in that decade, the Department has failed to take sufficient steps to ameliorate the disproportionately negative impact on borrowers of color or even to conduct further research to discover the causes or the extent of disparities.”
All of the joining organizations want the federal government to start tracking data regarding racial gaps. The want to see if federal aid ads to the issue, and if they do enough to protect minority candidates from financial pitfalls. Also, they want the Department of Education to record data on student loan results by race, in addition to monitoring third-party contractors that collect debts for the government.
Persis Yu, staff attorney for the NCLC, said that many debtors want to stay current on loan payments but aren’t made aware of their options. The NCLC wants the government to make it easier for minority students to succeed on their loan repayment plans.
Moreover, they want better quality loan servicing systems. In March, the NCLC and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. They wanted the Department of Education to make that type of information public. The ACLU’s Rahsaan Hall said:
“Who gets assessed additional fees, has their wages garnished or has their debts offset during the collections process are important questions that must be answered. We should not allow the Education Department’s lack of monitoring to exacerbate existing racial disparities.”
Yu adds that the Department of Education could dissect their data through zip code, borrowers whose parents are in low-income jobs or borrowers who receive Earned Income Tax Credits.