Student Debt is a Civil Rights Issue: The Case for Debt Relief and Higher Education Reform
68 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2020 Last revised: 26 Jul 2022
Date Written: October 15, 2019
For an ever-growing number of students aspiring to higher education, borrowing is essential. Yet the burdens of indebtedness dis-proportionally harm Black and Latinx students. Debt also undermines the meaning and effect of higher education access, enabling many who borrow to reach the middle class but still limiting possibilities relative to students who do not need to borrow or who borrow less — students who are more likely to enjoy relative privilege. This Article identifies ways in which student indebtedness works systematically to disadvantage those students who belong to groups historically subordinated on the basis of race, and thus provides more concrete historical and empirical grounding for reforms that would improve the accessibility of higher education. The Article develops proposals for reform, including debt forgiveness and elimination of public institution tuition, to promote greater equity in access.
Keywords: student debt, consumer debt, higher education, higher education financing, higher education access, civil rights, consumer protection
JEL Classification: I24, I28, H52, ID22, H23, H40, D18, H41, H44, H81
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation