Report shows LGBTQ+ students are more likely to have student debt

With workplace discrimination and less familial security, LGBTQ+ students face more financial struggles in higher education

A UCLA study found LGBTQ+ adults are more likely than non-LGBTQ+ adults to have student loans.

The study, which was published in July 2021, reported that about 23% of non-LGBTQ+ adults have student loans, as opposed to about 35% of LGBTQ+ adults. The study considered age differences between the two groups.

Ruby Maderafont, the facilitator for advocacy for ASU's Rainbow Coalition and a sophomore majoring in art museum studies, said they are aware of LGBTQ+ students who need financial support and that the Rainbow Coalition has discussed how to help them with student debt.

"In the Rainbow Coalition, we see queer students all the time who have difficulty paying off student loans because they don't have the financial support from their parents," Maderafont said. 

On the club's ASU website are many scholarships, financial aid opportunities and the club provides a space for students to promote GoFundMe fundraisers among themselves.

Total federal student loan debt is at nearly $1.8 trillion, with over 43 million borrowers. Since President Joe Biden took office, the Department of Education has made overhauls to the debt forgiveness system and has forgiven $11 billion in student debt.

The most recent round of overhauls will forgive over $2 billion in student debt over the coming weeks. Biden has resisted calls to unilaterally issue widespread debt forgiveness, despite pressure from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

In a 2018 study, LGBTQ+ student debtors were found to owe about $16,000 more than non-LGBTQ+ student debtors.

Robson Correa da Silva, president of the Thunderbird LGBT-birds+ and a graduate student studying global management, said more scholarships for LGBTQ+ students could help solve the problem.

Experts believe high rates of LGBTQ+ debt may be exacerbated by a lack of economic support from families. One report found 53% of non-LGBTQ+ student borrowers and 75% of LGBTQ+ student borrowers between the ages of 20-24 reported never receiving familial support to help make loan payments.

Madelaine Adelman, a professor at ASU's School of Social Transformation, said in an emailed statement some ASU students are afraid of coming out to their families over fear of losing financial support and LGBTQ+ students who are rejected by their families may lose access to housing, transportation and tuition funding.

"I have certainly spoken with students over the years that I have been at ASU (including as recently as last year) who fear that coming out to their parents will result in being cut off financially (or being forced to leave the family home, etc.)," Adelman said in the email.

Another factor contributing to LGBTQ+ student debt is employment discrimination. A 2021 study found 46% of LGBTQ+ workers have reported experiencing discrimination at some point in their careers. 

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Raphaël Charron-Chénier, an assistant professor from the School of Social Transformation, said any form of job discrimination can make it difficult for marginalized groups to pay back their student loans.

"Individuals that are in positions where they have fewer resources, and experience more systemic discrimination and inequality are just going to massively be disadvantaged by (the lending) system," Charron-Chénier said.

Correa da Silva said although discrimination may still occur, many large companies are trying to hire LGBTQ+ workers at higher rates.

"There are some companies who didn't have any kind of human resource team member devoted to hire diverse talents but now they do," Correa da Silva said. "Of course, small businesses are something different, but I'm talking about organizations."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, LGBTQ+ people and people of color experienced higher unemployment rates than white, non-LGBTQ+ people. A 2020 survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign found LGBTQ+ people were almost twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ people to report being "much worse off" economically in 2020 than they were in 2019.

ASU provides a website with resources to help LGBTQ+ students find inclusive workplaces. Any students or employees who have experienced discrimination can submit a complaint through the Office of University Rights and Responsibilities.

READ MORE: DOE extends Title IX protections to LGBTQ+ students

Maderafont said in an email while ASU does have scholarships for in-state LGBTQ+ students, many are out-of-state, as LGBTQ+ students from more conservative states want to pursue educational opportunities outside their home state to avoid discrimination.

"I know of scholarships that are for in-state students, but out-of-state students who are also queer might have more difficulty finding scholarships," Maderafont said.

Adelman said in an email while ASU can do more to help marginalized groups afford housing, transportation and tuition, student debt should still be canceled.

"Student loan debt should be forgiven, and I say that having paid off my own just a few years ago," Adelman said in an email.


Reach the reporter at mphughe3@asu.edu and follow @MasonHu29413328 on Twitter.

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