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Analysis: TN Minority, Rural Communities Face High Student-Debt Rates

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Tennessee's rural and minority communities are disproportionately impacted by high rates of student debt, according to an analysis of Experian credit data. (dodgertonskillhaus/morguefule.com)
Tennessee's rural and minority communities are disproportionately impacted by high rates of student debt, according to an analysis of Experian credit data. (dodgertonskillhaus/morguefule.com)
 By Stephanie CarsonContact
February 22, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is proposing free college tuition for students, but unless or until that policy is put in place, Tennesseans are struggling with student debt.

That's according to an analysis of Experian credit data released by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Their map shows particularly high rates of student loan debt in non-metropolitan areas where incomes are lower.

Beyond that, explains Kavya Vaghul, research analyst with the Center, minorities are disproportionately impacted.

"Middle-class minorities, the people who are taking out debt to go to college but haven't been able to find jobs post-graduation or don't have sufficient family wealth to pay it back, are the ones who are hurt most by delinquency," says Vaghul.

The analysis examined the number of student loans, deferred loans, the average balance on open loans and the average monthly payment on those loans to create the map. Nationwide, more than 42 million Americans owe a total of $1.3 trillion in student debt.

According to Edvisors a group of websites about planning and paying for college the average college student with student loan debt will owe a little more than $35,000 when they graduate. Vaghul says that's difficult to pay back for many students, particularly those with trouble finding a job.

"The minority students, the African-American and Latino students who are coming out with debt, also face some really, really strong labor-market discrimination," says Vaghul. "So when they're coming out of college, they're less likely to get jobs."

A study from the organization Young Invincibles which advocates for young people in the issues of education, jobs and health care - looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census and found that African-American students need to complete two more levels of education to have the same probability of getting a job as their white peers.

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