The nation's top consumer watchdog said Tuesday that black college graduates take on nearly 15 percent more debt than other students, putting the black community at an educational disadvantage.
"African-American college graduates are more likely to carry above-average levels of student debt," Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray said at a conference for historically black colleges and universities.
"So rising levels of student debt may hit communities of color the hardest, keeping some of our best and brightest young people from giving back to society," he said, "denying our country the benefits of their public service."
Combine the rising levels of student debt with a struggling economy where recent graduates have a difficult time finding employment, and more and more students are defaulting on their loans, Cordray said.
"It is clear that a weak labor market and rising student debt are putting the squeeze on young people," he said.
The CFPB estimates 7 million graduates are currently defaulting on more than $100 billion in student loans.
Cordray said this can affect graduates' credit, which, in turn, can make it difficult for them to buy homes or cars, and even find a job.
"The domino effect on student loan debt is real, and it is spreading," Cordray said. "It is hard to erase this debt quickly — paying it back may take many long years and prevent people from achieving other financial milestones."