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Americans collectively owe $1.48 trillion in student loan debt. That’s approximately 44 million Americans. Furthermore, the Institute for College Access & Success reports that seniors leave college with an average $28,950 in debt, and Black students are among those carrying the heaviest debt loads.

An estimated 86.8% of Black students take out federal student loans to attend a four-year public college, as opposed to 59.9% of white students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

But for Black students, who often face limited access to capital to begin with, paying off these loans can take decades — even a lifetime. And unfortunately, in comparison to their white peers, these loans even come at a steeper cost.

According to in-depth analysis of data from Demos (a think-tank that catalyzes progressive change) and NCES, Black and Hispanic students are paying more for student loans than white students.

Social and labor inequalities have led to less accumulated wealth, which has resulted in more student loan debt for students of color. With a lack of home equity, investments and savings,

Black families in comparison with white families, have fewer out-of-pocket resources to pay for college, which leads to more borrowing, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Not to mention, among those who finish college, Black and Hispanic bachelor’s degree holders default five times as often as white bachelor’s degree holders.

But although these numbers are discouraging, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for these borrowers of color. It is possible to dig yourself out of student debt. It just takes a little bit more discipline and planning to do so. Here are a few a few tips in order to do so.

Pay every time, on time.

We know, we know — things happen. It’s not always feasible to make every payment all the time. However, it’s extremely important for not only your debt ratio, but also for your credit score to make sure you keep up with your monthly payments. It’s actually easier and wiser to pay off your student debt while you’re young and not yet burdened by the escalating monthly expenses that come with age and life changes. Imagine how much worse it will get once you’re married, have a family, or are on the market to buy a house or a new car (or two)?

Consolidate your debt.

High interest rates can cause your debt to grow over time. And the higher your rates are, the more you’ll pay in the long run. Depending on the type of debt you have, and the interest rate your lender charges, you could end up paying thousands more than you originally borrowed.

Make some extra cash and then put it towards your loans.

During secure the bag season, it’s important that you use those “bags” to pay down your loans. Whether you get a side gig as a bartender, grow your Instagram feed in order to bring in some influencer cash, or even do some consulting, it’s important to bring in a few extra dollars if you feel like you’re in a hole and can’t go out of it. Don’t have extra time for a side gig? Use any cash windfalls or newfound money, such as annual raises and bonuses, or that annual tax refund to pay down your loans.

Prioritize paying down loans with higher interest rates.

It’s important to figure out your loans that have the highest interest rates in order to pay down those first. Loans that have a higher interest rate will result in more cash that you’re spending in the long run. So prioritize those first, and then focus on reducing each one — one loan at a time. When you look to reduce them all at one time, we know how overwhelming it may seem, but with this strategy you’ll ultimately begin to make a bump in your debt.

Pay more than the monthly minimum each month.

There’s nothing more important than paying off your minimum payments each month. One of the best and easiest strategies to reduce debt is by making more than your minimum payment each month. Make it even easier by setting up biweekly payments. With biweekly payments, your regular monthly payment is cut in half and you pay that half every two weeks. Doing so equals to 13 payments per year instead of 12. It sounds small, but it’s huge. And if you’re able to, you can put extra money on top of your biweekly payment toward your principal, saving you even more money on interest and the time it will take to pay off your loan.

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