Student Debt: Why Race Matters

At the City University of New York, we are seeing tuition hikes of $300 per year until 2016. Many would argue that despite this, CUNY is still more affordable than a lot of other public colleges in the United States and that as students we should count ourselves lucky that our tuition is so cheap. While there may be some truth to this, with the cost of education going up and financial aid being reduced for so many, affording CUNY is not as easy as it once was for an increasing number of students. Many students are being forced out of college due to the rising cost at an institution that was free up until 1975.

Why is this happening? Well there is a much larger trend in the United States where we are seeing colleges increase tuition, while at the same time we see a decrease in aid provided- particularly at the legislative level. Over the last few years students have lost access to many federal grants and other financial aid opportunities, often blamed on budget cuts. This has led to a ballooning of student debt over the past few years, surpassing national credit card debt at over one trillion dollars. This is the next big problem and, just like the housing crisis, it disproportionately affects people of color. A report from the Center for American Progress, progressive public policy research and advocacy organization, highlights this fact: “African American and Latino students are especially saddled with student debt, with 81 percent of African American students and 67 percent of Latino students who earned bachelor’s degrees leaving school with debt.”

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—Biola Jeje.

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