Some 63 percent of white students who graduate from public four-year colleges and universities borrow to do so, but 81 percent of black graduates go that route, according to a study of student debt by Demos, a public policy research organization. When it comes to associate's degrees, 57 percent of black students borrow, versus 43 percent of whites — and the black students borrow an average of $2,000 more. And that is without controlling for income.
"It's what we call parental transfer. Parents of white students are more able to help them with college, with liquidity and with assets to draw on," Grinstein-Weiss said.
Another possible reason for the difference in debt levels may be tied to the schools students attend, the researchers said. Black students are disproportionately represented in the ranks of students at for-profit schools, which tend to offer less need-based aid and often are not cheap. An associate's degree at a for-profit school costs only $956 less than a bachelor's degree at a public four-year institution, according to Demos.