In fall 2020, with funding and support from the TIAA Institute, we embarked on a National Study on Black Student Loan Debt in partnership with Jalil Mustaffa, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania. For the study, we surveyed and interviewed Black borrowers from across the country to better understand their lived experiences.

We are excited to announce that our upcoming report, “Jim Crow Debt: How Black Borrowers Experience Students Loans,” which highlights what we heard and provides policy solutions that address the needs of Black borrowers, will be released in the coming weeks!

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Numerous quantitative studies show that there is a serious Black student debt crisis, and clarifying the problem is the first step to fixing it. That’s why we convened a panel of higher-education experts for a Hill briefing on this issue – excerpts of the ideas they presented there were featured in The Washington Post – and compiled a Black student debt essay series for The Hechinger Report and Ed Trust’s Higher Education Equity Lens blog, in which Black scholars break down the causes of the crisis and propose potential solutions. That was a start, but to find the right policy solutions, we also needed a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of the people struggling the most with student debt. We talked with Black borrowers, so our policy recommendations would be informed by their needs and experiences. Our study helps answer a key question that quantitative data alone cannot: How are Black students experiencing the debt crisis? This question has never felt more urgent than it does now amid the added financial challenges and stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic is placing on Black communities. Please stay tuned for more data analysis and release our findings to come.

For Questions Regarding the Study, Contact:

Dr. Jalil Mustaffa Bishop (Principal Investigator)
University of Pennsylvania -Vice Provost Postdoctoral Scholar

Research Advisory Board

To help guide us through the research process, we have formed a research advisory board of esteemed Black student debt experts.

Dr. Fenaba R. Addo
Visiting Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy
Affiliate Professor of the Samuel Dubois Cook Center for Social Equity

Joanna K. Darcus
Staff Attorney, Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center

Qierra Doss
Student at Middle Tennessee State University and founder of Grads Help Grads Initiative

Dr. Darrick Hamilton
Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
Professor at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University

Ashley Harrington
Federal Advocacy Director and a Senior Counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending

Dr. Constance Iloh
Assistant Professor at the University of California-Irvine

Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom
Associate Professor of Information and Library Science, University of North Caroline
Senior Research Professor, Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life

Lodriguez V. Murray
Sr. Vice President, Public Policy & Government Affairs
United Negro College Fund


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