Tell us about your big idea!
The Prosp(a)rity Project is on a quest to resolve the $2 trillion student debt crisis while also closing the racial wealth gap it creates for Black women.
Can you give us a snapshot of the problem — How is the debt crisis impacting young people?
Today’s borrowing crisis is a far cry from the virtuous loan systems first implemented in the mid-20th century to give enterprising students from low-income backgrounds a real opportunity to achieve upward mobility through higher education. What started out as a true helping hand—aid to afford the cost of a college degree capped at $1,000/year—has now ballooned to a multi-trillion dollar disaster that is not only failing to equip today’s generation of college-aged youth with relevant training and preparation for the modern job economy, but bankrupting them and their families in the process due to unchecked greed on the part of loan issuers and higher education institutions.
Thanks to exploitative practices such as subprime lending, which intentionally seeks out borrowers with low-to-moderate repayment odds, all teenagers and early twenty-somethings need to amass education debt is typically just a co-signer or two (most often a relative), and just like that, they’re on the hook for debt loads that rival some mortgages.
Due to the pressure these outsized loan burdens create, combined with uncertain earning prospects, graduates are finding it increasingly more difficult to achieve financial stability or pursue the ensuing personal milestones of marrying, having families, or establishing wealth of their own, leaving us with the vicious cycle in which we now find ourselves.
Big IdeaDebt elimination is one of the biggest challenges many trying to build wealth and financial freedom are up against, so I can’t recommend enough that folks know their numbers—how much debt, to whom, percentage rate, repayment terms, etc.Bri Franklin
What solutions is the Prosp(a)rity Project focused on?
We’re breaking the mold to tackle the systemic issues of predatory lending and wealth inequality at the root. We’re working to educate high-school-age youth on post-secondary options for reducing debt and increasing income; we’re awarding retroactive scholarships, financial coaching, and career development to debt-overwhelmed, college-educated Black women; and we’re educating corporate teams on the intersections of student debt and racial inequity to garner their support toward achieving resolution.
Our initiatives are not just designed to remedy the circumstances after they've already taken effect, but prevent them altogether for future generations by reimagining education about finance—and more specifically, debt—from the ground up.
How did you get involved in this work?
Having been burned by the fire of predatory lending myself, I know this pain deeper than most and have had to make many personal and professional sacrifices as a result. Coming out of school with over $116K in student debt and zero knowledge of finance set me up for tremendous financial hardship. Now that I've made strides in overcoming it, I am deeply committed to ensuring that others are spared from such destabilizing circumstances, and most importantly, dismantling the systems that have allowed them to continue.
What are your biggest tips for gaining greater financial literacy?
To be totally honest, I’m not a huge fan of the phrase “financial literacy” since lack of financial success is attributed to the same factors someone may have in any other area, which is instead lack of preparation.
That being said, what will help bridge this ever-widening gap is actionable goals and a written plan. Given the alarming trends we’re seeing with debt of all kinds (car loans, education loans, credit cards and now these pesky Buy Now, Pay Later options) spiking to unprecedented levels, it’s safe to say that debt elimination is one of the biggest challenges many trying to build wealth and financial freedom are up against. I can’t recommend enough that folks know their numbers—how much debt, to whom, percentage rate, repayment terms, etc.—and use a method like the debt snowball or avalanche to begin tackling it head on so that their capital can more freely flow to other financial needs and wants!
The views and opinions of the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.