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For Many Blacks, College Degrees Come With Outsized Debt

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Sonia Williams was floored when she realized what it would cost for her daughter, Jenele, to attend college.

“We heard stories, but when you go through it, that’s when you really say, ‘Wow,’” says Williams, who moved to the United States in the 1980s from the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Jenele Williams will be the first in her family to graduate from college in the U.S. But along with the second diploma she’s on track to earn this spring as she finishes a joint bachelor’s and master’s program in business administration, she’ll have tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. She and her mother, who took out parent loans, owe a combined total of about $93,000.

The Williamses are one family in a community that bears a disproportionate...

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