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After defaulting on her student loans and having her wages garnished, Yvonne fell into a deep depression.

“That was a very dark time in my life. I felt like I wasn’t providing for my family fully, because I wasn’t getting a full paycheck. But again, it was because of my own decision. So, for me, it was a double-edged sword… I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know who to talk to. I didn’t know how to remedy it.”

Approximately 45 million Americans carry $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. But the racial wage and wealth gaps make student loan repayment especially challenging for Black borrowers. Not only does this debt burden have far-reaching financial consequences, but research also shows that the toll of student debt on people’s mental health can be just as devastating as the financial harm.

In “Jim Crow Debt: How Black Borrowers Experience Student Loans,” a report by The Education Trust in partnership with Jalil B. Mustaffa, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Villanova University and co-founder of the Equity Research Cooperative, we highlighted the Black student debt crisis and the experiences of Black borrowers based on a survey of nearly 1,300 Black borrowers and in-depth interviews with 100 borrowers. In this new brief, these same borrowers describe how student debt has affected them financially and mentally—with 64% of survey participants reporting that student debt negatively impacted their mental health.

Learn why Black borrowers carry the heaviest student debt burden and how that contributes to poor mental health, and what the federal government can do to ease borrowers’ burdens.