If You Knew You Had a 20% Chance of Not Paying Parent PLUS Loans Would You Take Them Out?

Andrea Fuller and Josh Mitchell of the Wall Street Journal have done some excellent reporting over the years on the student-loan crisis. Fuller and Miller recently published a WSJ article about poor and middle-class parents who take on substantial debt to help pay their children’s college expenses. Most of these parents signed up for Parent Plus loans offered by the U.S. Department of Education.

You might think that parents whose children are enrolled at elite private colleges would be the ones with the biggest Parent Plus loans, but you would be wrong. According to Fuller and Mitchell,

The schools with the largest parent debt burdens aren’t world-famous Ivy League schools . . . Rather, they include art schools, historically Black colleges and small private colleges where parents are borrowing nearly six-figure amounts to fulfill their children’s college dreams . . . .

According to the article, the college where parents borrowed the most money for their children’s schooling was Spelman College in Georgia, a historically Black institution. Among parents who took out federal loans for their kids, the average amount was $112,127. Among low-income families, the average amount was more than $83,000.

Keep in mind that the money parents borrow through the Parent Plus program is in addition to the student loans that their children took out themselves.

Fuller and Mitchell’s article contains a handy feature that allows readers to type in the name of an American college and learn the average amount of parent debt at that institution. I ran the numbers for some prominent HBCUs, and parent debt at several of these institutions is quite high.

These numbers are disturbing. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that the Wall Street Journal’s school-reporting mechanism had no figures at all for several HBCUs. For example, the feature reported no data for Jarvis Christian College in northeastern Texas; Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas; and Miles College in Alabama. All three colleges are HBCUs.

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As reported by the Wall Street Journal, 20 percent of African American parents who took out Parent Plus loans in 2003-2004 defaulted on those loans by 2015. In other words, Black parents who take out Parent Plus loans to help their kids pay for college are running a one-in-five chance of being financially ruined.

All progressive-minded people support the historically Black colleges and universities and believe they should be adequately funded. But we should also think about the students who attend HBCUs and their parents as well.

Perhaps the best thing we could do to protect African American parents from risking their own financial security would be to eliminate the Parent Plus loan program altogether.

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