Monday, May 03, 2010

How College Loan Debt Affects African Americans

In my work with The Impact Movement I have the privilege of working with a number of highly intelligent and talented students from across the country. Many graduates from our chapters go onto successful careers in a number of fields and become active members of local church congregations in cities throughout the United States and in the world.

For a small percentage of these students, they sense a unique call from God to enter into vocational Christian ministry. Although many of these students are able to see that calling fulfilled, a relatively high number have to delay (or forgo altogether) their plans to enter into the ministry due to financial debt. In some cases this may be caused by consumer (i.e. credit card) debt, but most times it is because of student loans that were incurred in order to get their college education in the first place.

Ericka Blount Danois writes on the Black Voices blog about how African American students are graduating with higher levels of debt than any other ethnic groups in the U.S. Here are some facts listed by Danois:
  • Almost 17 percent of all graduates in 2008 borrowed $30,500 or more to get their bachelor's degrees.
  • About 25 percent of all college-degree recipients graduated with at least $24,600 in debt, and 10 percent graduated with at least $39,300, says the report.
  • Only 19 percent of black students graduated with no debt.
  • About 27 percent of all black students graduated with at least $30,500 in student-loan debt, while the portion of students with that level of debt ranged from 9 percent to 16 percent for other races.
According to Danois, the problem is not necessarily that students are borrowing money to go to college but many of them have not thought through how they will repay the loans on the salary they'll be earning:
"According to the report, the problem is not that the students are borrowing too much, but that difficulties in predicting earnings after graduation and students' lack of understanding about the financial impact of loans leave too many of them borrowing more than they can manage.

For instance, if you're attending a graduate teachers' college for $30,000 per year, and upon graduation, you're saddled with more than $100,000 in debt, it would take a lifetime to pay back that loan on a teacher's salary."
If you're currently a college student or a parent that will soon be sending your daughter or son away to school, it is wise to think through if the loans you're considering taking out will be worth it. For students anticipating going into missions, you need to serious think about whether you can realistically pay off $30,000 or more in student loans on a missionary's salary.

One of the tenets of our mission statement for The Impact Movement is to "produce leaders of financial responsibility." We realize that when we have indebtedness to others, we are limited in the options we can pursue in our service to God but with financial responsibility comes great freedom to serve God as He leads.

If you've found yourself in a situation of debt, I encourage you to read Dave Ramsey's advice here. If it is (or has been) a challenge for you to pay for college, it would be wise to look into other options besides loans such as scholarships, grants, and work study programs. College can be a great opportunity but not if it saddles you with crippling debt for the better part of adulthood. Making wise financial decisions before and during college will pay off in the long-run. You won't regret it.

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