THE PRICE OF THE TICKET: THE MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF STUDENT LOAN DEBT ON BLACK AMERICAN FIRST-GENERATION STUDENTS
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AuthorBellamy, Brittany Nichole
Depression and Anxiety, Financial Literacy, First-Generation Students, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Mental Health Disparities, Student Loan Debt
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TitleTHE PRICE OF THE TICKET: THE MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF STUDENT LOAN DEBT ON BLACK AMERICAN FIRST-GENERATION STUDENTS
AbstractWhile the completion of a baccalaureate degree is the gateway to a greater quality of life in areas of employment, health, housing, civic engagement, mortality, and economic wealth, the college experience for Black American students is typically coupled with the accumulation of a disproportionately high amount of student loan debt. While the most significant enrollment growth of Black American college students is found in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Black American college graduates hold the highest rate of defaults on student loan repayments. The study explores the mental and emotional implications of student debt on Black American first-generation graduates of HBCUs. This study sought to fill the dearth of research on the borrowing behavior patterns, levels of financial literacy, and the psychological impact of said debt experienced by Black American college students and graduates. Specifically, the limited research on why inequities persist in student loan borrowing behaviors led to a desire to better understand, from a historical context, the impact of collective trauma on this financial dilemma. Using the lens of intergenerational cultural trauma theory, the study sought to better understand the possible link between horrific historical ordeals and contemporary behaviors as it relates to struggles of Black students with student loan debt. The foundational use of this theory draws a parallel between the multi-century system of enslavement which provided no opportunity for early generations to earn money, manage debt, or sustain wealth and the crippling socioeconomic and psychological impact student loan debt has on Black American college graduates today. The researcher used a biographical narrative inquiry approach, purposeful sampling to select the participants and conducted semi-structured, virtual interviews with each of the eight first-generation graduates of HBCUs. The findings of this study indicate that each participant leaned into his or her individual understanding of learned survival strategies to persist to graduation but encountered unexpected psychological challenges when faced with loan repayment. Within the context of intergenerational trauma theory, the researcher was able to relate possible patterns of the themes with codes and events of antebellum enslavement. Recommendations for future research include a deliberate focus on the borrowing behavior patterns of Black American students, access to quality and sustainable financial literacy and mental health resources on college campuses, and the opportunities to create equitable access to such resources to help improve academic, financial, and psychological outcomes for the most vulnerable student populations.