The Racial Wealth Gap is Growing for Minorities Despite Degree, Studies Show!

The Racial Wealth Gap is Growing for Minorities Despite Degree, Studies Show!

Traditionally, a college education has been the expected way to enter the middle class, if not the elite, of society. Students would head off to school knowing that, over a lifetime, their degrees would amount to much more in earnings than that of their counterparts who failed to achieve admission.

In recent years, some critics have questioned the viability of this thinking. After all, the latest recession has left more graduates than usual living at home with parents. Nevertheless, the reality is that a college degree is just as much sought after today, if not more, than in the past. And, why not? With competition for top jobs coming from all over the globe in this Internet age, Americans hoping to enjoy life in the suburbs understand the value of a solid education.

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For African Americans, this dream has turned into a nightmare. Some scholars have come to a conclusion, that for these racial minorities, a college degree, even from the toniest of institutions, actually hurts their chances of entering the mainstream of society.

There are variable reasons why African American college graduates are doing worse than their counterparts who do not venture off to college. Racism and discrimination play only a part of a larger phenomenon. Yes, African Americans still face higher rates of unemployment, despite credentials, than the national average. In general, the rate for the group doubles that of the nation. However, this factor alone does not account for the inability of college-educated African Americans to succeed financially.

It is economics that helps explain the failure of African Americans to acquire wealth through education. College tuitions have risen exponentially over the decades since politicians introduced the comprehensive federal student loan program. The altruistic goal of making college financially possible for all has betrayed African Americans. Academic institutions have raised tuitions and students just take out more in loans. Quite simply, starting off from a lower economic base and getting heavily into debt, almost ensures that most African American graduates will not achieve the dream of a posh middle-class lifestyle. In fact, their heavy debt load, one in ten college graduates has over $40,000, in loans, positions them worse off than those with no degrees.

Graduates who do find well-paying employment still face the same cycle of debt that can engulf many in the middle-class. The largest problem being affording a house. The Housing Crisis left a disproportionate number of African Americans without their most valuable asset. African Americans and Latinos comprise 64% of the number of foreclosures in the cities rocked most by the downturn. Thus, graduates can expect to spend the remainder of the 21st century facing mountains of student loan payments, while having little wealth, despite walls full of degrees.

This research informs society of a serious problem. Education alone cannot create equality. The financial head starts provided some groups mean they can withstand economic downturns much better than others. African American graduates, overextended chasing the middle-class dream, face an all-or-nothing gamble. Right now, when a lagging economy exacerbates lingering effects of racism, they are often worse off for having tried to educate themselves. Given the long struggle among the race to even be allowed to read, this reality presents a sad commentary on contemporary society.

Critics of the present higher education system wonder if there is a need for reform. Should college financial aid offices and federal loan service centers take into special consideration the effects of the debt burden on African American graduates? Do these minorities who strove to attain financial security the traditional way, through education, deserve a break? These are the questions policymakers will undoubtedly debate in coming years.

www.nytimes.com www.bloomberg.com

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