The inequities in borrowing for college also came through in an annual report on student debt,
released this week by The Institute for College Access & Success. In general, growth in graduates’ debt has flattened in the past few years and actually went down, just slightly, in this year’s report.
The report looks at the student debt of college seniors who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2019. Sixty-two percent of those graduates had student-loan debt, and they owed an average of nearly $29,000.
But some groups of borrowers — low-income students, Black and Latino students, students who do not complete their programs, and students who attend for-profit colleges — are disproportionately likely to struggle to repay, the report said.
And, by some measures, disparities are widening: Black graduates of the class of 2016 had almost $8,000 more in cumulative debt than white graduates, up from a gap of $5,100 at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008.
The Role of For-Profits
For-profit colleges were largely excluded from the TICAS report (because so few of the colleges report the relevant data), but the authors made a point to highlight the outsized role that sector plays in the nation’s student debt load.
More than 80 percent of graduates of four-year, for-profit colleges took out student loans, according to the most-recent data (for 2016 graduates) cited in the report.
Their average debt, of nearly $40,000, was 41 percent higher than that of 2016 graduates from other types of four-year colleges. And bachelor’s degree recipients who started their education at for-profit colleges defaulted on their federal student loans within 12 years of entering college at six times the rate of those who started at nonprofit colleges.