RECAP: Addressing the Black Student Debt Crisis

Baltimore, MD (October 19, 2020) – Today, the NAACP hosted a virtual press conference addressing the student debt crisis and the disproportionate impact it has had on Black borrowers and their families. Across all racial groups, Black borrowers hold the most student loan debt despite also being consistently underserved by postsecondary institutions. Many Black students enter college with considerably fewer financial resources for equitable student experiences in addition to navigating various forms of racial and educational violence on campus, followed by navigating an unequal labor market. Participants discussed the serious interventions needed, including the cancelation of current student debt and providing pathways to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, potential debt traps for Black students.

The panelists also discussed the findings of Legislation, Policy and the Black Student Debt Crisis: A Status Report on College Access, Equity, and Funding a Higher Education for the Black Public Good. In partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a grant from the Lumina Foundation funded the production of this report. 

Watch the full recording.

Participants heard from Tiffany Dena Loftin, National Director at NAACP Youth and College Division; Dr. Katherine Wheatle, Strategy Officer for Federal Policy and Equity at Lumina Foundation; Dr. Charles H.F Davis III, Assistant Professor of Higher Education at University of Michigan; Dr. Jalil Mustaffa Bishop, Vice Provost Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education; Keron Blair, Executive Director at Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools; Russell Boyd II, National Field Organizer at NAACP Youth and College Division; Josh Thompson, President, Alabama Youth & College State Conference. 

In opening the conversation, NAACP Youth and College Director Tiffany Dena Loftin said:

“Today marks 15 days until November 3, the general election. As we think about the election, the work that the Youth and College Division has been doing focuses on making sure that we bring people to the ballot box and make elections personal. Young people have pushed both of the national candidates for President to focus on student debt issues, and we want them to go further.”

On the topic of, Strategy Officer for Federal Policy and Equity at Lumina Foundation, Dr. Katherine Wheatle said: 

“It’s an understatement to say that we are at a critical tipping point for black people this year. This year has been referred to as the most uncertain year for higher education in decades. But as made clear in the report, Black people have been in crisis in higher education long before the pandemic.”

When asked what sorts of efforts beyond appealing to electoral politics are on the table and essential when it comes to the student debt crisis, Vice Provost Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education Dr. Jalil Mustaffa Bishop said: 

“While we have been talking about the student debt crisis for years now, the idea that cancellation is on the national stage and in the mainstream conversation is from movement building. A lot of it has come from movement builders who have been able to give us the language and vocabulary to make debt not an individual issue but something that is structural and a collective burden.” 

On the same topic, Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of Michigan, Dr. Charles H.F Davis III added:

“We know that this is always a conversation and a dialogue and an engagement with movement workers as we know that the NAACP is the oldest and largest civil rights organization that is doing this grassroots work as well. This always has to be a conversation in which we understand what’s on the table legislatively is always made possible by what’s put forward by those that are on the ground politically.”

Executive Director of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools Keron Blair said: 

“We are clear that education justice cannot be separated from the conversation about racial justice. The inequities observed in K-12 and higher education spaces are deeply connected to the legacy and continued prevalence of racism in this country. And so, when we talk about student debt, we are talking profoundly about a racial justice issue.”

Watch the full recording.

You can read the student debt report by downloading it here.


Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.

 NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but separated in 1957 to become a completely separate entity. It is recognized as the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization, and shares our commitment to equal rights.

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