How the Student Loan Debt Crisis Impacts Racial Diversity in the Teacher Workforce

A new report from the Center for American Progress finds that the student debt crisis is a contributing factor in the lack of racial diversity in teacher ranks at the nation’s public schools.

Several research studies have demonstrateds the importance of increasing teacher diversity. Yet he teacher workforce in public schools is still overwhelmingly White. About 82 percent of all teachers in the nation’s public school identify as white.

The Center for American Progress report found “that Black teachers are more likely to borrow federal student loan money to fund their undergraduate and graduate education than their White counterparts. The data also indicate that Black teachers owe more in federal student loans on average and that they may be encountering more difficulty in repaying their undergraduate student loans.”

The statistics show that 91 percent of the Blacks who completed teacher training programs accumulated student debt, compared to 76 percent of their White counterparts. The total median debt load of African Americans who were trained to be teachers in undergraduate programs is about double that median level for Whites who graduated from undergraduate teacher training programs.

Furthermore, nearly half of Black teachers who went to graduate school accumulated additional debt compared to 26 percent of White teachers who enrolled in graduate school.

Large debt loads and the difficulty Black teachers are having in paying down this debt may force many of them to leave the teacher ranks to find better-paying jobs.

The authors of the report conclude that “it is important to identify the barriers that keep people of color from entering the teaching profession and staying there. Persistently low pay serves as a deterrent for anyone considering the teaching profession. However, that deterrent becomes more acute for people who have higher student loan debt.”

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