Minorities and poor college students are shouldering the most student debt

(WASHINGTON POST)  Danielle Douglas-Gabriel — Amid state cuts in higher ed funding and federal grant aid eclipsed by rising tuition, low-income students must borrow to get a degree.

A day away from crossing the stage at Montclair State University’s graduation, Evangelia Stone reflects on her journey from community college, the “amazing” professors she met along the way and the $50,000 in student loans she took out to get a bachelors’ in sociology.

Stone, the first in her family to graduate from college, qualified for the maximum award in Pell Grants, the federal program that provides money for the country’s poorest students to attend college. The free aid was enough to cover all her costs at Atlantic Cape Community College in southern New Jersey, but it barely paid for a quarter of the more than $20,000 in-state tuition, room and board at Montclair. The school offered Stone no scholarships or grants, but she received several thousand dollars from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visual Impaired. It wasn’t enough.

“Nobody should have to spend this much money, period. But in-state students going to public universities…the fact that I’m leaving with this much debt is absurd,” said Stone, 25, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Rutgers University this fall. “Higher education is supposed to be a public good, not just a private purchase that wealthy students get to enjoy.”

Amid state cuts in higher education funding and modest increases in federal grant aid eclipsed by rising tuition, African American, Latino and low-income students like Stone must borrow to get a degree, according to a new reportfrom liberal think tank Demos.

Eighty-four percent of college students with Pell grants graduate from four-year public schools with debt, compared with less than half of students without the need-based grants, the report said. While less than two-thirds of white graduates from public schools borrow, four out of five black graduates take out loans for college. And black students who do borrow come out with more debt than their peers.

Source: Minorities and poor college students are shouldering the most student debt – The Washington Post