Key takeaways

  • Student loan debt disproportionately impacts Black student borrowers, affecting monthly budgets and financial milestones alike.
  • Though there are racial disparities in student debt burdens, borrowers of color may also be eligible for scholarships or other financial aid that is race-specific.
  • Income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness programs can help students of any demographic manage debt payments after graduation.

Many American college graduates struggle with student loan debt, and with rising tuition costs, more and more people struggle to afford a college education. However, not all borrowers feel the pinch the same way.

Due to systemic factors like the racial wage gap, borrowers of color are most likely to face financial consequences stemming from their student debt. In fact, a recent Bankrate survey revealed that 64 percent of Black respondents and roughly 70 percent of Hispanic respondents have delayed important financial milestones due to their student loan debt, compared to less than half of white respondents.

Here’s a breakdown of America’s average student loan balances by race and the disparities between demographics.

Key debt statistics by race

Black or African American

Hispanic or Latino

American Indian or Alaska Native


  • According to an analysis by the Urban Institute, 72 percent of Asian students are Pell Grant recipients, meaning that most of them come from low-income families.
  • The average amount borrowed by Asian students is $49,100.
  • Asian borrowers repay their student loan debt faster than borrowers from any other race or ethnicity. Four years after earning their bachelor’s degrees, Asian graduates owed 63 percent of their initial student loan balance.
  • Out of all female undergraduate borrowers, Asian women carry the lowest student loan balance, borrowing an average of $25,252 and owing $27,606.60 one year after graduation.


What is the breakdown of student loan debt by race?

Race/ethnicity Average total education loan debt Median household net worth
Source: Federal Reserve
Black $53,430 $44,100
Hispanic $26,460 $62,100
White $46,140 $284,310
Other $51,810 $132,200

Racial disparities in student debt

In a Bankrate survey from April 2022, borrowers of color — especially Hispanic borrowers — were most likely to report needing to delay a financial decision, like buying a house or saving for emergencies, due to their student debt. Unfortunately, this is only one impact among many that students of color face from their student loan debt.

Here are some other key findings from this survey:

  • Sixty-eight percent of white respondents said they never took out student loans to pay for their education, versus 57 percent of Black respondents and 64 percent of Hispanic respondents.
  • Almost half of white respondents said they haven’t delayed any important financial decisions due to their student loan debt, compared to 36 percent of Black respondents and 31 percent of Hispanic respondents.
  • Twenty-four percent of Black respondents said they currently have student loan debt, compared to 13 percent of white respondents and 18 percent of Hispanic respondents.
  • Only 42 percent of Black borrowers who took on student loan debt said college opened up career and income opportunities. By contrast, 54 percent of Hispanic and white borrowers believed they received greater career and income opportunities after graduating college.
  • Twenty-three percent of Hispanic borrowers reported delaying purchasing or leasing a car due to their student loan debt, compared to 20 percent of Black borrowers and 21 percent of white borrowers.

According to research from the Brookings Institution, Black students saw the highest cumulative percentage change in median student debt and one of the smallest percentage changes in median income from 2009 to 2019, compared to white, Asian and Latino students.

Brookings also found that Black college graduates owe about $7,400 more than their white counterparts. However, a few years after graduation, this debt gap more than triples for Black borrowers.

Race and student loan payments

The outsized effect of student loan debt on marginalized communities can hurt monthly budgets after graduation. The Education Data Initiative estimates that the average Black bachelor’s degree graduates borrow $22,550; white graduates borrow $17,850; Asian graduates, $21,260; and Hispanic graduates, $21,240.

Here’s how their average monthly student loan payments break down after graduation:

Black borrowers $250
White borrowers $201
Asian borrowers $240
Hispanic borrowers $239

That monthly payment gap can be even wider for borrowers with private student loans, which often charge much higher interest rates.Higher borrowing amounts could be one factor that affects default and delinquency rates.

Research by The Institute for College Access and Success shows that 12 percent of white students default on their student loans within 12 years, while nearly 38 percent of Black students’ loans will be in default status in the same period. The Institute on Assets and Social Policy adds that 20 years after starting a college education, the typical white borrower pays off almost 95 percent of their balance — but the typical Black borrower still owes 95 percent of their principal balance.

The bottom line

Student loan debt in America disproportionately impacts borrowers of color. Nearly every aspect of the lending process — from origination to repayment — impacts racial groups differently, with nonwhite borrowers shouldering longer repayment timelines and higher principal loan amounts.

Borrowers struggling with federal student loan payments can take advantage of federal benefits to lower their monthly payments, temporarily defer payments or apply for alternative repayment options. Those with private loans don’t have uniform relief options like federal loans; however, borrowers can ask their lender about hardship and payment relief options.