Two critical issues that affect mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color and their education are currently on the national stage.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on October 31st regarding landmark college race-based affirmative action cases. Whatever opinion emerges will have a bearing on whether colleges will be allowed to continue considering a student’s race in its admissions decisions. Considerations of race in college admissions have benefited students of color given systemic inequities stemming from histories of disadvantage due to historical realities of enslavement, harsh immigration policies, and displacement. Furthermore, diversity in college campuses has been shown to maximize the educational experience of all students by ensuring that a multiplicity of ideas and perspectives can flourish on diverse campuses. Such exposure enhances the consciousness of students extending into their personal lives and work settings after their college experience.
One potential consequence of a ruling against affirmative action in college admissions is that students of color may seek alternative schools for education – we are seeing rising admissions in historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and this trend may continue as students seek to have a sense of belonging in their college campuses.
President Biden’s plan to eliminate $10,000 of student debt among students with federal loans and an additional $10,000 for Pell Grant recipients is a boon for young people of color who have pursued higher education. Students of color are more likely to take out loans for college and to have outstanding debt after graduation compared to their white counterparts. These disparities are directly connected to higher rates of poverty among families of color and the staggering racial wealth gap.
The stress of heavy debt and financial insecurity has a negative impact on mental health. Without federal loans, it would not have been possible for students in financial hardship to afford the high costs of a college education out of pocket. The retirement of thousands of dollars in student loans will relieve the stress associated with the burden of debt students are carrying, among which students of color represent a disproportionate number.
The Steve Fund encourages and supports the establishment and continuation of structural competence measures in the form of policies that promote admission to, attendance in, and graduation from college. Affirmative action and reduction of student debt are two corrective factors that facilitate equity to help level the playing field for students of color and remove the racism-driven obstacles that often get in the way of achieving educational and occupational goals. Obtaining a college degree for a young person of color is a ticket to financial security; a critical component of mental health and quality of life.