Thursday, May 5, 2016

College Debt and Race

I don't have an explanation for it, and neither does anyone else, yet, but the news is worth paying attention to.

A study published in the Children and Youth Services Review compares education debt between low-and-moderate-income families by race, and the findings are disturbing:

Significant variation in education debt was found, as LMI Black students accrued $7,721 more education debt than LMI Whites.

Significant Black-White disparities in education debt persisted after accounting for degree completion and socioeconomic factors.

I don't have access to the full article, but Brookings published a brief report about it. Brookings notes that another study shows that white students generally have more assistance through family connections than Black students. That matches the sort of "social capital" patterns noted by Robert Putnam in Our Kids.

But a more likely cause is the type of schools that students attend. Black and Hispanic students are more likely to attend for-profit colleges, getting less bang for their buck and more debt for their trouble.

Put this together with recent published findings about college affordability in general, and we can see a growing crisis in college education. If college is supposed to be a doorway to a better tomorrow, that doorway is increasingly locked to many Americans. The administration has made the occasional noise about clamping down on for-profit schools, but it has been mostly noise only. Some folks advocate for more ratings and rankings of colleges based on government-issued formulae, but it seems to me that we're long past due for some clamping down on advertising-- particularly cynical race-targeted advertising.

After all-- we stopped letting tobacco companies suggest that their cancer sticks were the pathway to sophistication and sexiness. Why can we not clamp down on predatory colleges that promise the future and deliver debt? Here's one more reason that getting LMI students to raise their Big Standardized Test scores is no secret to college access or success, less like helping them grow big and strong and more like fattening the sheep for the wolves ("Look! You got a high PARCC score! You should talk to my friends at Gotrox University!") If this is how we're supposed to be creating racial equity in this country, well-- it's not working. In fact, it may be doing the opposite of working. Damn, but surely we can do better than this.

1 comment:

  1. This is just a guess, but spacial distribution of public colleges and universities might also play a role. In my state, and I think many others, the state provide more low cost seats per person in rural areas of the state than urban ones. If African Americans are more concentrated in urban areas (that is the case in my state), choosing a college or university close to home is more likely to result in choosing a private school than a public one.