Is It Worth It? Black America's Looming Loan Crisis

Spend enough time on Twitter and you'll begin to see patterns. There's a minority community...


Spend enough time on Twitter and you'll begin to see patterns. There's a minority community on the social networking site, to which many affectionately refer to as "Black Twitter," and we have a strange habit of entertaining the same debates over and over again.

About once a month the subect of college arises, and the general consensus seems to be college isn't or everybody. I strongly disagree, but I can't argue that the financial consequences of attending a college you can't afford are dire.

Historically, Black America has been plagued by low credit scores which diminish prospects for upward mobility. Scholars point to conspicuous consumption of unnecessary material goods as the culprit, but now the middle class dreams of African Americans may be unattainable because of a desire for higher education.

Most of us ridicule our "hood rich" cousins for their wasteful spending, but most students have done nothing for which they should be ashamed. Though we know what we're doing when we buy jewelry or shoes instead of paying rent, we, frequently, do not bring the same understanding to (co)signing high interest loans.

If you thought the mortgage crisis was bad, wait until we have a generation of 30 and 40 somethings who can't afford homes and cars because of predatory student loans. And now this country's reckless fiscal conservatives support cuts to Pell grants and low interest federal loans that will hit us hardest. Republicans find ways to demonize every low income/minority group, so this fight that will undoubtedly exclude many groups from higher education is pitiful though somewhat expected.  One has to wonder how our President can hope to advance such an ambitious vision for America's future without considering how out of reach secondary school has become for many Americans.

To be clear, the looming student loan crisis crosses racial boundaries, but as in all socioeconomic matters, when the majority culture gets a scratch, we end up in a full body cast.

 I continue to be a staunch defender of college primarily because of the tireless work done by previous generations for the access to educational opportunities we now enjoy. African American college graduation rates are shockingly low in large part because of lack of academic preparation and financial support, but these obstacles require fight not surrender.

Blacks, in this country and around the world, have been perpetually undereducated and promoting a continuation of that cycle is irresponsible.  When we say "college isn't for everyone" there has to be an understanding that the "everyone" we're referring to is primarily Black, brown, and/or poor.

Corporate greed has made higher education a Sophie's Choice when in reality it should be quite simple. Forgoing secondary education limits your job choices and earning potential; however, being saddled with mountains of unmanageable debt inhibits your ability to live comfortably. But instead of rejecting college completely, now more than ever we have to foster a commitment to financial literacy.

This may require steering students away from expensive for profit and private colleges, and it certainly compels debt counseling and community support.

Kimberly Foster (@kimberlynfoster) is the Editor-in-Chief of For Harriet.

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