Black Gen Z Students Less Likely to Believe They’ll Be Able to Afford College

Despite affordability concerns among those who are college-bound, Black students of all ages were most likely to say that a college education is important.
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Jessica Bryant
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Jessica Bryant is a higher education analyst and senior data reporter for BestColleges. She covers higher education trends and data, focusing on issues impacting underserved students. She has a BA in journalism and previously worked with the South Fl...
Published on September 25, 2023
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  • More than 1 in 3 Black students believe they will be able to afford college if they want to attend.
  • However, this is significantly less than the percentage of white and Hispanic students who believe the same.
  • Black students are, historically, less likely to be able to afford college and account for a disproportionate number of Pell Grant recipients and student loan borrowers.
  • Young Black students are still most likely to see the value in higher education despite significant hurdles.

Black Generation Z students aren't as confident as their peers that they will be able to afford college, a new report reveals.

Gallup, in partnership with the Walton Family Foundation (WFF), surveyed more than 3,000 Gen Z students between the ages of 12 and 26 and found that among college-bound students, only 39% of Black students believe they will be able to afford college if they want to attend.

This is nearly 20 percentage points less than the percentage of white (57%) and Hispanic (56%) students who say the same.

The report suggests that these affordability concerns may be contributing to why Black students have historically had the lowest rate of immediate college enrollment of any racial/ethnic group.

But these concerns also speak to an unfortunate reality — Black students in America are less likely to be able to afford college.

The nation's persistent racial wealth gap has left Black households far behind their peers of other races. Even during the pandemic, as Black households saw their net worths rise at a higher rate than non-Black households, Black Americans' net worth is still 70% below the net worth of non-Black households, according to a study conducted by Wells Fargo.

This leaves Black families and students more likely to need the assistance of grants and loans when it comes to funding their education.

As of the 2015-2016 academic year, the largest percentage of Pell Grant recipients was Black students.

In 2018, 76% of Black bachelor's degree-completers received federal student loans. They borrowed, on average, over $6,000 more in federal loans than all bachelor's degree-completers.

Further, Black families and individuals are disproportionately impacted by student loan debt. When comparing student loan debt by race, Black adults are most likely to have debt, struggle with repayment, and owe more than they initially borrowed just one year after graduating.

A 2022 report also found that student debt is preventing wealth-building for graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Despite all these hurdles, young Black students are continuing to see the value of higher education. Black Gen Z students who were surveyed by Gallup were most likely of any other racial/ethnic group to say they believe college is important (87%).

Gallup researchers noted that these findings are consistent with other findings of theirs where Black and Hispanic Americans, who are historically underrepresented in higher education, are consistently more likely to see it as important.

Gallup researchers stress that by addressing these young students' affordability concerns and making the pursuit of higher education attainable for all students, institutions will be able to solve enrollment shortfalls and help more students complete college.