Loan Debt Harms Black Borrowers’ Mental Health

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A new research brief, released today, found that student loan debt takes a toll on the mental health of Black student borrowers.

The brief, published by the Education Trust, is the second in a four-part series based on the National Black Student Debt Study, a survey of nearly 1,300 Black borrowers and 100 in-depth interviews. It found that 64 percent of respondents reported student debt had harmed their mental health. Even among students in income-driven repayment plans, the majority said loans were their “primary source of financial stress” and came with negative mental health effects.

The brief shares the accounts of Black borrowers who said in interviews that student loan debt led some of them to depression, stress, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

A borrower named Yvonne said defaulting on her loans and having her wages garnished made her depressed. She borrowed $58,000.

“That was a very dark time in my life,” she said. “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 did become depressed. And I’m a very transparent kind of a person. I did more drinking then, I will honestly say. And I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know who to talk to. I didn’t know how to remedy it.”

The brief recommends canceling at least $50,000 of federal student debt regardless of income, loan type or degree level. (Eighty percent of study participants recommended the federal government cancel all student debt.) It also suggests doubling the Pell Grant, making public college free through federal-state partnerships and making reforms to income-driven loan repayment plans.

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