For Black Americans and Indigenous people, the chance of upward mobility and the American dream has been unattainable because of the prohibitive cost of higher education. Following Emancipation (1865) and consequentially segregation in the United States, white higher education institutions were forced to admit people of color – Black people, Brown, and Indigenous people. But as segregationists were no longer able to use race as a political tool, wealth and income replaced race which led to the astronomical cost of higher education aimed at keeping people of color out of the colleges and universities. The economic barriers imposed by the drastic increase in the cost of higher education forced Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans to take out loans with increasing high interest rates to fund their college education. The average cost of college education has more-than doubled in the 21st century, with an annual growth rate of 6.8% (Education Data Initiative, August 15, 2022). With the astronomical tuition increase, students of color are forced to depend heavily on student loan, which can follow a person throughout their life. Student loan debt disproportionately affects people of color, especially Black people. It limits their ability to advance economically, and it prevents them from being able to purchase homes because of the crushing burden of student loan debt. Students of color are more likely than their white peers to apply for Pell Grants. About seventy- two (72) percent of Black Americans and sixty (60) percent of Latinx are Pell recipients. President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness initiative is a bold and welcoming relief to students of color. A key aspect of the President’s loan debt relief plan is the exclusion of the wealthy. The President’s student loan debt relief, which will affect students of color the most, is a tremendous first step in the right direction to tackle racism that is student loan debt which has contributed enormously to the fast-growing racial wealth gap in the United States. According to statement from the White House, “By targeting relief to borrowers with the highest economic need, the administration’s actions are likely to narrow the racial wealth gap.” While we are grateful to the Biden administration for the student loan relief package, more needs to be done to eliminate barriers erected by racism to access to higher education, the escalating cost of college education, and economic advancement overall for people of color. We cannot achieve racial economic justice unless Congress and our policy makers tackle these looming issues.
~Bernadine Ahonkhai, ED. D Founder/President, Coalition4Justice www.coalition4justice.com Email: email@example.com