People who attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) typically have larger amounts of student loan debt than those at traditional universities. Debt loads at HBCU’s tend to be larger because many students are low-income and/or first-generation.
According to the United Negro College Fund’s report, FEWER RESOURCES, MORE DEBT: Loan Debt Burdens Students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCU students typically graduate with higher debt loads because they borrow at a higher rate than their non-HBCU peers. According to a 2013 study, HBCU students borrow an average of $26,266 in federal loans. Non-HBCU students borrow an average of $14,881.
HBCU students also have lower loan repayment rates than their non-HBCU counterparts. According to the report: “Seven years after leaving college, the average cohort repayment rate for HBCU students is considerably lower than that for students at non-HBCUs (59 percent vs. 85 percent).” This rate, however, does not include factors that impact repayment rates such as student economic status, labor market conditions and choice of educational program.
Another issue facing HBCU students is that more come from families with lower incomes than their non-HBCU peers. In 2005, the median family income of students at HBCUs was $28,400. That is about half the median family income ($51,400) for students who attend non-HBCUs. The discrepancy in income limits the ability of an HBCU student to pay for college. Thus, HBCU students have large amounts of unmet need that require them to take out student loans.
HBCU institutions have limited resources, which hinders their ability to provide grants to students. In 2015, the top 10 HBCU endowments to provide grants to students ranged from $34 million to $660 million. The endowments for non-HBCU institutions that year ranged from $10 billion to $36 billion.
Suggestions to reduce the HBCU student debt loan
- Policymakers should reduce the complicated nature of the federal student aid eligibility process and provide more aid to those in need
- Grant aid and work-study opportunities should be increased
- Federal loans should be less costly for students and their families
- The federal student loan servicing system repayment process should be more manageable, effective and efficient