Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Higher Education Policy and Student Affairs

Committee Chairperson

Matthew Kruger-Ross, Ph.D. Assistant Professor

Committee Member

Jason Wozniak, Ph.D. Assistant Professor

Committee Member

Jacqueline S. Hodes, Ed.D. Associate Professor


This thesis investigates educational debt as a racialized construct resulting from deeply entrenched disparities expounded by the current marketization of higher education. Once hailed as a pathway to the American Dream, pursuing a college education meant access to the middle class which promised greater social capital and socioeconomic mobility. Yet for many students, specifically minority students of color who carry disproportionate amounts of educational debt fueled by this false promise, the realities of this pursuit are far direr. By framing the discussion through the theoretical lens of Critical Race Theory, this research attempts a more critical review of the discriminatory systems at play in addressing the debt-financing model of higher education. As students of color continue to gain greater access to higher education, they have made these gains on exploitative terms derivative of a racialized system that is deeply rooted in inequality. This is most notably seen with black students as data shows this population has significantly higher debt burdens, face a greater risk of dropping out, experience higher rates of loan default, and endure lasting economic hardship over the course of their lifetime as a result of these variables. To counter, the proposed intervention acknowledges the dimensional aspects of student debt experience and champions the individual student voice in an effort to remediate the inequitable federal policies and institutional practices that greatly limit the black student population. Keywords: higher education, student debt, neoliberalism, Critical Race Theory, digital storytelling, counter-storytelling