Cumulative Debt of 2011-12 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients by Race/Ethnicity

In 2011-12, 32% of black bachelor’s degree recipients accrued $40,000 or more in student debt, compared to 7% of Asian graduates, 16% of whites, and 17% of Hispanics.

Figure 2015_18: Cumulative Debt of 2011-12 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients by Race/Ethnicity

Figure 18 represents Cumulative Debt of 2011-12 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients by Race/Ethnicity. For a corresponding Section 508-compliant data table, see

Notes & Sources 

NOTES: Percentages on the vertical axis are percentages of bachelor’s degree recipients in each racial/ethnic group. Includes: 1) 2011-12 bachelor’s degree recipients regardless of when they first enrolled, 2) students who were U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and 3) both federal and nonfederal borrowing. Percentages may not sum to 100 because of rounding.

SOURCES: NCES, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, 2012; PowerStats calculations by the authors.

  • While 30% of all 2011-12 bachelor’s degree recipients graduated without education debt, only 14% of black graduates did not borrow.
  • The circumstances of black graduates differ from other racial groups in ways that may make them more likely to rely on student debt to fund their education. In 2011-12:
  • Black graduates were disproportionately represented in the for-profit sector, where debt levels were highest, as indicated in Figure 17B. Approximately 19% of black graduates earned their degrees in the for-profit sector, while only 5% of Asian graduates and 7% of white graduates earned their degrees in this sector.
  • On average, black graduates were older than members of other racial and ethnic groups and were more likely to be independent students and to have dependents of their own. Those who were dependent students came disproportionately from lower-income families. In addition, on average, the time between beginning postsecondary study and earning a bachelor’s degree was longer for black students than for others. As indicated in Figures 16A, 16B, and 17A, older students, independent students, and students who take longer to obtain a degree tend to accumulate higher debt levels.