Each year, millions of undergraduates receive grant and loan aid that helps them pay for college. Yet, members of different racial and ethnic groups interact with federal, state, and institutional aid systems in very different ways. These differences in how undergraduates pay for college underscore that students of different demographic backgrounds vary widely in their financial circumstances: for many students of color, financial access to college hinges vitally on access to state and federal aid. By the same token, students of color are disproportionately exposed to the risks associated with borrowing for college, and some students’ financial needs remain largely outside the ambit of present federal, state, and institutional aid programs. Finally, undergraduates’ borrowing behavior illustrate how longstanding racial and ethnic disparities in family resources inform the debt burdens that students carry into post-college life.

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