Debt at the HBCU

Parents of students at historically black institutions take on high debt loads.

AS THE COST of education in the U.S. rises, so does the amount of debt incurred by students—and their parents. In particular, many parents take on PLUS loans directly from the U.S. Department of Education. LendingTree’s Student Loan Hero, a loan management company, has released a report showing that historically black colleges and universities are overrepresented among the schools where parents carry a high debt load. In a ranking of schools according to the debt load taken on by parents, HBCUs make up four of the top ten, and eight of the top 50.

Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, was No. 2 on the list, with an average parent PLUS loan origination of US$16,227 per student age 24 and under. In fact, more than 47 percent of Spelman undergraduates had a parent who borrowed loans to cover their education—and among the parents who did borrow, the average size of the loan was $34,223. Clark Atlanta University came in at No. 4 on the list, with an average parent PLUS loan of $13,066 per student, closely followed by Morehouse College, also in Atlanta, with an average of $12,759.

Why? According to the report, one reason is that HBCUs tend to have smaller endowments than other colleges, which can lead to less financial aid and fewer scholarship opportunities. However, loans aren’t as high for students at public HBCUs. For instance, at Norfolk State University in Virginia, the average PLUS loans for parents of full-time students under the age of 24 was $2,758; at North Carolina Central University in Durham, it was $3,407.