Opinion: The Student Loan Debt Crisis Is a Civil Rights Issue
This post originally appeared on www.BlackPressUSA.com
By: Wade Henderson | March 5, 2018
From attacks on voting rights to police killings of unarmed civilians and growing inequities in earnings and wealth, the civil rights gains of the past six decades are facing threat after threat. But one front in the fight for full equality—meaningful access to higher education—is particularly urgent. With 65 percent of jobs soon requiring more than a high school diploma, the need is greater than ever, especially for African Americans and other communities of color.
More than 50 years ago, Congress passed the Higher Education Act (HEA), intending to open the doors to higher education by providing students with financial assistance and low-interest loans. Conventional wisdom has traditionally held two things: 1) Higher education is the great equalizer; 2) It is okay to take out debt for the tickets to upward mobility: a college education and a home mortgage. These life decisions—and the struggles and sacrifices that made them possible—helped to build and grow the Black middle class.
Now, aspirations for advancement are colliding with the discriminatory legacy of the financial crisis. Our country’s student loan bill has skyrocketed. Student debt is now the second-largest source of household debt after housing. Forty-four million Americans have $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. One reason: Since the 1990s, the average tuition and fees at our universities have jumped an average of 157–237 percent depending on the type of institution.
As with the Great Recession, people of color, poor people, and predatory institutions are at the center of this socioeconomic catastrophe. They must also be at the center of the solutions.
Posted on 6 March 2018