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Weighing The Financial And Mental Costs Of Higher Education

By Earlene Greene

  • Mental health struggles including anxiety, depression, insomnia and panic attacks can be directly related to student loan debt
  • 79% of Black and African Americans surveyed are either completely unable or hardly able to afford loan payments

The financial weight of higher education is mentally draining Black Americans with student loan debt. A recent survey conducted by ELVTR, revealed that 54% of respondents said their mental health struggles are directly related to student loan debt. Nearly two-thirds of those polled can barely afford or can’t afford their loan payments at all, with minorities like Black borrowers facing the most debt.  The financial strain, emotional burden and mental distress of student loan debt begs the question, is it all worth it?

Why This Matters: Leading the charge in regards to the mental health struggles is anxiety at 56%, depression at 32%, insomnia at 20% and panic attacks at 17%. 

Student debt is worsening wealth inequality between white and Black Americans. According to a new study titled, “Racial Disparities in Student Debt and the Reproduction of the Fragile Black Middle Class,” researchers found that Black young adults take on 85% more education debt than their white counterparts, and that disparity compounds by 7% each year after the borrowers leave school. 

African Americans face unique student loan repayment challenges. Whereas, White borrowers pay down their education debt at a rate of 10% a year, compared with 4% for Black borrowers. As a result, 15 years after they leave college, Black adults hold 185% more in student loans than white adults.

Four years after graduation, the average Black borrower owes $53,000, while the average white borrower owes $28,000, according to the Brookings Institute. Additionally, 79% of Black and African Americans surveyed are either completely unable to, or hardly able to afford loan payments, putting them at greater risk of defaulting.

Situational Awareness: We’ve been convinced since we were knee-high to a bottom that a college education was the American way. A way to secure rewarding careers, greater opportunities, increase earning potential, and we believed the hype.  Mainly, because we never imagine the cost would be so predatory in nature and that the cost would outweigh the benefit. We didn’t realize the toll it would take on our entire lives.  Only 41% of student loan borrowers believe it to be a good investment, while 36% believe their education was not worthwhile, and the other 23% have lingering doubts. 

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