College Affordability, Student Debt Forgiveness Top Priorities for Black Voters

A recent poll found that Black Americans are concerned about college affordability, support for HBCUs, and student debt forgiveness heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

April 8, 2022 · Updated on April 8, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
College Affordability, Student Debt Forgiveness Top Priorities for Black Voters
Opinion & Analysis Student Voting
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  • In a poll, 52% of Black Americans rated college affordability a 10 on a scale of importance.
  • Financial support for HBCUs and student debt forgiveness are also high priorities.
  • Most respondents said neither they nor anyone in their home has outstanding student debt.

Ahead of this year's midterm elections, a new poll shows that higher education is a top priority for Black voters.

The findings come from a recent poll conducted by GBAO and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. In its poll of 600 Black American adults, 52% rated college affordability a 10 out of 10 on a scale of importance. The average rating all respondents gave on the importance of college affordability was an 8.2, or just between 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale where 0 is least important and 10 is most important.

The majority of respondents (57%) also said financial support for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) should be a priority, rating it between 8 and 10.

Support for student debt forgiveness was slightly more varied. More respondents showed support for up to $50,000 of forgiveness per borrower than forgiving all student loan debt. Half of respondents (50%) said up to $50,000 of forgiveness is a 10 on the scale of importance, while 41% said forgiving all student loan debt is a 10.

Interestingly, most respondents who participated in the survey report that neither they nor anyone in their household has student loan debt (58%).

The 40% of respondents who report that either they or another member of their household currently have outstanding debt is significantly less than the reported percentage of Black Americans who have student debt throughout the nation.

Today, approximately 87% of Black Americans take out loans to fund their four-year education, compared to about 60% of white students. In addition to the disproportionate amount of debt they take on, 48% of Black borrowers owe more on their federal loans after four years than they initially did at graduation, according to a Brookings Institution report.

Black borrowers are also significantly more likely to have student debt exceeding $50,000 and take on additional graduate school debt in hope that it increases their chances at securing higher-paying jobs, according to a report by The Education Trust.

When it comes to job creation, three-quarters of respondents (75%) in the GBAO/Joint Center poll said President Joe Biden should prioritize developing good-paying jobs, rating it between 8 and 10 on a scale of importance.

Black Americans are often underrepresented in high-paying jobs and executive roles. According to a recent report by McKinsey & Company, Black Americans make up just 7% of managerial roles in the U.S. private sector while accounting for 12% of entry-level positions.

The poll's own demographics further illustrate a lack of highly paid Black Americans. A fifth (20%) of surveyed respondents reported their total family income in 2021 as less than $20,000, while another fifth (21%) said it was between $30,000 to $50,000 before taxes. Only about a 10th of respondents (11%) said their total family income exceeded $100,000.

As Black Americans continue to share their political priorities through polling this year, keep in mind that polls are limited and cannot always tell the full story. Polls often target likely voters, and those left out may share sentiments that don't fall in line with the results.