Student debt racial divide must be addressed

Despite all the progress made in the years since the peak of the Civil Rights era, an alarming report released by the Gallup Poll reveals there is still more progress that needs to be made. 

The report, released this month, stated 50 percent of black students graduate with more than $25,000 in student loan debt compared to only 34 percent of their white counterparts. This gap has remained virtually unchanged for the past 40 years. 

The report further revealed recent black graduates reported being “financially thriving” at a rate far lower than their white counter parts. 

While it may seem that this discrepancy is merely a reflection of greater societal problems, addressing it could indeed be the ticket to ending cycles of the economic and social stratification of race in society. 

On its own, the student loan debt crisis, which is affecting an increasing number of college graduates, has the potential to be one of the most debilitating social crises of recent times. 

Scarier still are the immense social consequences of the impact of entering the post-collegiate world as a young adult with a knapsack weighed down by the rocks of tuition and fees. These penalties define future opportunities not only in terms of the types of opportunities one is forced to seek to make ends meet, but they also define the social milieu one will land in. In some cases, opportunities for pursuing further education and thus opportunities to rise within a career are completely ruled out. In a post-collegiate setting, the majority of frequent social interactions then tend to be categorized by those in similar income brackets or social strata. 

While this won’t necessarily lead to all-out “class warfare,” this makes social mobility incredibly difficult and further compounds the growing income inequality problem in the U.S. When race is added to the mixture, it poses an ominous threat to a child’s future in the U.S., depending on their race. 

When affirmative action for admissions faces such heated debate, finding a solution based in equality, but that helps level the economic playing field for all races, is sure to be met by noisy critics. 

What is clear, however, is that the discrepancy must be addressed. 

Divya Kumar is a senior majoring in mass communications and economics.