This study examined student loan debt among African American students with disabilities.
African Americans and students with disabilities (SWDs) are both recognized as groups explicitly and historically denied opportunity for education; and continue to be at high risk for limited access to postsecondary education (Blanchett, 2009). African American SWDs must mitigate these risks by coping with their disabilities; however, often their incomes are lower than those of their non-disabled peers, which means dependence on financial aid is higher.
Student loan debt is a topic of growing policy concern in the United States. Recent data show most students who pursue a college degree now utilize loans, which have become the primary source of aid to students (Looney & Yannelis, 2015; Gladieux & Knapp, 1994). As loans have displaced grant dollars, not coincidentally, student loan indebtedness has increased almost three times faster than college costs (Merisotis & Parker, 1996). It is hypothesized that students with disabilities that are African American will have higher student loan debt than other demographics with disabilities.
The Baccalaureate and Beyond dataset was used to explore factors influencing the amount of federal student loan debt among bachelor graduates with a disability. This dataset is a nationally representative study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in the United States.
The sample for this study was 2,100 (N = 2,100) bachelor degree graduates with disabilities. Of this sample, 42.6% were male and 57.5% were female. The racial demographics were 73% White, 8.6% African American, 9.2% Asian, 0.4%, and 3.1% other.
The data analysis incorporated a linear regression. The overall model fit and each significance test was measured using a 0.05 significance level.
The dependent variable was measured by the amount of federal student loan the participants had after completing their bachelor’s degree. Independent covariates in the regression model included: gender, race, and institution type. These independent variables were empirically supported covariates related to degree completion among college students (Ishanti, 2006).
The average federal student loan debt among graduates with disabilities was approximately 27,490 dollars (M = 27480.11, SD = 14951.33). The overall linear regression model was statistically significant (R2 = 0.30, F[11, 190] = 23.93, p = 0.04, R2 =.30 ). Other significantly associated variables included: African American/Black (b = 6197.21, p < 0.001), and attending a for-profit University (b = 13,053.4, p = 0.001). Meaning, African Americans with disabilities had approximately 6,197.21 dollars more in federal student loan debt than white students with disabilities. Additionally, students attending private for-profit University had approximately 13,053 dollars more in federal student loan debt than those who attended a public University.
Conclusions and Implications
Overall, the results of the study indicated that African American students with disabilities had more student loan debt than other demographics who have disabilities. Thus, implicating that social work researchers must connect these findings to past studies in order to determine the reason why African Americans with disabilities have higher student loan debt than other student groups with disabilities.