The student debt crisis and its disproportionate effect on African Americans

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Student debt is holding Americans back to the tune of billions and billions of dollars.

It’s money they can’t use to invest in a home. It’s money they can’t use to pay for better health care. It’s money they can’t use to begin saving for their own children’s education, thus breaking the cycle.

Angela Rye, president, and CEO of IMPACT Strategies says these issues, and the student debt crisis as a whole disproportionately affects African Americans.

“Well, I’m not saying that the data says that,” said Rye on First News at Four. “African Americans borrow more, to begin with, and African Americans default more, to begin with.”

Rye says there is one large and unsurprising reason why: “A lot of that has to do with the economic condition we find ourselves in 400 years after the first documented enslaved person arrived here.”

From there, Rye says the issue is continued and exacerbated by pay disparities, less familial wealth, and lack of information from lenders.

“There are a number of reasons why we find ourselves always with the short end of the economic stick, and the student loan debt is just one of millions of factors that exist that contribute to our economic loss and our economic loss of power in this country,” said Rye.

Edward Tarlton is the president and CEO of Higher Education and Learning Professional Consulting based in BCS. He works with students of all races, but often those who are African American, to help them navigate from high school all the way through a career.

“I absolutely see the issue Ms. Rye is talking about,” said Tarlton. “We talk about it every day.”

Tarlton says part of the problem comes from a lack of knowledge that paying for college is a process that should begin as early as possible.

“By the time you need the student loan, you need the student loan,” said Tarlton. Therefore, he advises parents to take a couple of early steps: starting saving now for your child’s college, and when you see your child develop an interest outside of athletics, encourage and foster that interest.

“Kids throw a ball across the room, and parents automatically say, ‘Oh he’s going to be a pitcher,’” Tarlton said. “When you see your child have a love for reading, a love for coloring, or anything like that, you lock-in.”

Tarlton points out that there are many scholarships available, and while some of them seem small, even $500 can make a difference. Furthermore, many don’t receive a lot of applications.

“You think you don’t have a chance at the scholarship, but you do,’ said Tarlton.

For the full conversation with Tarlton, see the video player above. Learn more about his business, HELP Consulting, in the Related Links.