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Knocking Out Student Loan Debt

The full episode transcript for The Power of the Black Vote: Knocking Out Student Loan Debt.


Into America

The Power of the Black Vote: Knocking Out Student Loan Debt

Kamree Anderson: I am starting my DoorDash shift, deciding which orders that I want to accept. So I'll usually just hit dash now and select how long I want to go. And usually I'll go for about four hours.

Trymaine Lee: Kamree Anderson is sitting in her well-worn 2010 Honda Accord parked in a lot next to a Nordstrom Rack in Durham, North Carolina. Logged in to start a shift for the food delivery app DoorDash.

Anderson: So this order right here is $5 for eight and a half miles. So I'm not going to take that. Sometimes it does take a while to get the type of order that you want. I'll like move around sometimes...

Lee: Kamree wait until a better option pops up on the app.

Anderson: So we have order from Maggiano's, $11.75 for nine miles. That's okay to me. So I'll go ahead and accept that one.

Lee: Kamree is 25 years old, a few years out of college, and she actually has a full time job at the Durham Police Department.

Anderson: And my car mount broke. So let's put it down here.

Lee: But here she is delivering food as a side hustle.

Anderson: I do this job on the side to help pay bills or just extra money for whenever I want to do something.

Lee: Some of those bills that are looming for Kamree starting next year, are student loans.

Anderson: I think I have to pay that $35,000 total.

Lee: Kamree isn't alone. Student debt has become a crisis that has exploded in recent years. Today, the total student loan debt in this country is more than $1.7 trillion. And over the past three decades, the average amount of debt owed by student borrowers has tripled. But black student borrowers like Kamree have been hit especially hard.

America's vast racial wealth gap means that black students and their families are more likely to take out loans and take out loans for bigger amounts than their white counterparts. Black graduates leave college with an average of over $7,000 more in student loans than white graduates.

Now, that might not actually sound like that much, but it gets worse quickly. Black grads have a harder time paying their debt off. On average black students graduate with seven times less wealth than white students. And because of the speed at which loan interest accumulates, four years after graduating, the gap between what black and white borrowers owe, triples.

According to a 2016 study from the Brookings Institute, four years after school, white borrowers on average will have $28,000 in debt, while black borrowers owe over $52,000 which leaves people like Kamree hustling with second or even third jobs to make ends meet.

Anderson: Go inside and get the order.

Lee: As Kamree picks up her first order of the day from a local Italian restaurant, she describes her work schedule.

Anderson: At Durham PD, I work 12 hour shifts, three to four days out of the week. It just depends on the week and usually get two weekends off. I work from 6pm to 6am.

Lee: And on her off days, she does DoorDash usually around 12 hours a week. Kamree says it's frustrating to take on these extra shifts, but she feels lucky to have her main job at the Police Department. And even though she's in debt, Kamree doesn't regret getting her degree in Criminal Justice at North Carolina Central University, one of the state's storied HBCUs.

Anderson: after taking a forensics course my senior year of high school it was automatic like I knew I wanted to try to be a crime scene investigator or work with evidence or work in forensics and you need school to do that. 926 okay.

Archival Recording: The customer requested you leave the order at their door. They gave the following instructions, leave at my door.

Lee: But this student debt crisis is not just hitting black graduates hard. It's impacting their families too. Like many black families Kamree's couldn't afford the tuition for NC Central straight up.

Anderson: All I remember really is just someone telling me what to do like to get certain loans, but I had to learn along the way, the different types of loans and grants that you could get, and my mom did help explain those as well.

Dina Fincher: We sat down and talked with - talked with the school to find out how much it will cost each semester.

Lee: Dina Fincher, Kamree's mother still remembers those early conversations. And at first, Kamree took loans out herself, but then something unexpected happened.

Fincher: Each year, they said that the tuition was going up.

Lee: And Kamree couldn't qualify for any more federal loans. So Dina had to step in.

FINCHER: So I ended up having to get about five parent student loans to help her out.

Lee: Parent Plus loans have become increasingly common in recent years, and often come with even higher interest rates than normal student loans. And black parents tend to need them more, especially at HBCUs. According to the Century Foundation, around 6% of black parents take out Parent Plus loans, but 20% of black parents sending their kid to an HBCU, rely on the program.

The rise in student loans is partly due to the rising cost of tuition. A recent study from Georgetown University found that since 1980, the average price of tuition fees in (INAUDIBLE) board for an undergraduate degree increased over 170% even after adjusting for inflation.

Dina felt she had no choice but to take on some of this debt for Kamree.

Fincher: With my daughter, it was $23,000, little over $23,000.

Lee: But that's not all she owes.

Fincher: With my own school, it was about $35,000- $36,000.

Lee: Dina is still paying off her own student loans. A third of black parents with loans for their children's education, still have student loans themselves, compared to 13% of white parents. In all, Dina owes nearly $60,000. Dina is 52 years old, now divorced, and works as an administrative assistant at a law firm.

And like her daughter, she picks up extra work whenever it's available. On average, about eight hours a week.

Fincher: I definitely wasn't expecting it to be still owing this much money at my age at all.

Lee: Kamree is grateful that her mom was willing and able to help. She has friends whose parents couldn't qualify. But it still weighs on her that her mom had to take on this extra debt.

Anderson: I don't like that part of it. Because it was my education. And my mom had me at the same age that I am now. And she went to school before that. And now I'm almost 26 and she's still paying for her school, on top of what I had to take out under her name.

Lee: Over the last few years, student debt has become a major political issue. It was a big talking point during the 2020 Democratic primaries when then candidate Joe Biden promised to address the crisis. And then, in late August.

Joe Biden: My campaign for president, I made a commitment that would provide student debt relief.

Lee: President Biden finally announced his plan.

Biden: We will forgive $10,000 in outstanding federal student loans. In addition, students who come from low income families, which allow them to qualify to receive a Pell Grant will have their debt reduced $20,000. Both of these targeted actions are for families who need it the most, working and middle class people hit especially hard during the pandemic, making under $125,000 a year.

Lee: This plan, which is set to go into effect in January, could affect 43 million Americans and completely eliminate debt for 20 million people. And with the economy and inflation, top of mind for voters this fall, pundits began to speculate about how this might affect Democrats momentum ahead of the midterms.

Archival Recording: How does this effort to relieve that play for Democrats this fall, do you think?

Archival Recording: It's fantastic look, Democrats are delivering with the narrowest margins in the House and the Senate We have delivered with the American Rescue Plan.

Lee: The conservative backlash has been swift, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a rising Republican star who said this on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.

Ron DeSantis: You're going to be having plumbers, people that have their own small businesses, waitresses, they're going to be on the hook to pay the student loan of somebody who got a PhD in gender studies. I mean, give me a break.

Lee: But others who remember Biden's campaign promise to cancel all undergraduate federal debt for HBCU students don't think the plan goes far enough.

A lot of people have said this step by the Biden administration is a major deal which camp do you all fall in?

Archival Recording: It's cute.

Lee: Cute?

Archival Recording: I always say you know, baby steps are steps, but they're baby steps, that you need to walk.

Lee: Student loan debt has become a generation defining issue, especially for young black Americans. So we're headed to North Carolina Central University, home of the sound machine to continue our power of the black vote tour.

Archival Recording: Oh, I'm definitely going to be looking at all of these platforms. Like I know a lot of people when I started to look into the midterms and stuff, and I started looking at their websites, they have a tab now for debt, like how they had a tab before for medical care now it's tabs for student debt.

Archival Recording: The narrative that's being pushed is that students aren't thinking about these things. And we're signing these dotted lines. The last thing on our minds, but it's very much the very first thing on our minds.

Lee: I'm Trymaine Lee and this is into America. North Carolina is at the center of the American student debt crisis. As of 2022, the state holds $49.2 billion in student loan debt, a number that has tripled over the last decade. Today, how black students in the bull city are tackling their own student loan debt, trying to build a financial foothold for their families and putting this issue at the top of their agendas this election season.

Jonah, what's good brother?

Jonah Vincent: Hey, hey.

Lee: How are you feeling man?

Vincent: I'm good. How are you?

Lee: When Jonah Vincent met me outside of his home in Durham, the first thing I noticed was his T-shirt. Now I have to ask you this shirt, Cancel Student Debt, man. What's that about?

Vincent: Yeah, cancel student debts. Straight to the point, NoCap.

Lee: Jonah is 39 years old, an activist, educator and musician and passionate about ending the student debt crisis to help families like Kamree and Dina it's one of the reasons he founded NoCap, an organization that mobilizes black students and young people around pivotal issues.

Vincent: We need to cancel student debt. You know, this is something serious and for us. At NoCap, you know, we see it as a really big issue to close the racial wealth gap. You know, for black students in this state and across the country. We have the most amount of debt.

Lee: Jonah has his own student debt. But he feels lucky that he and his wife both have good jobs and steady income. Especially because six weeks before we met, they welcomed a baby girl into the world.

Vincent: The day she was born, I never forget this when I'm looking at her, she was born with the eyes open and she's looking at me, looking at my direction because she's hearing my voice. And I'm looking at her and I'm like, Man, she can be anything that she wants to be. And as soon as I said that to myself, I'm like, gosh, student debt.

You know I'm thinking about that, like, oh man, can we afford to put her through college? Can we - can she afford to get through college? For a while, Jonah attended Shaw University and HBCU in Raleigh, then transferred to Durham's NC Central, where he graduated with a bachelor's in Jazz Studies. He stayed on essential to get his master's in music theory and composition.

Over the course of studying, he racked up a pretty penny in debt. Now through NoCap, Jonah talks to current students, especially HBCU students about debt as a social and political issue. So today, we're heading back to Central, a 10 minute drive from his house.

Vincent: All right.

Lee: You got something going on.

Vincent: Okay, yeah, this left leg straight.

Lee: And as it stands now, how much do you owe as student debt?

Vincent: We're now to 120.

Lee: And are you able to pay this?

Lee: No, man? No, no, no, there's just no way.

Lee: At the start of the pandemic, the Trump Administration put a pause on federal student loan payments. This gave millions of borrowers like Jonah, a small window into what life without this debt might look like.

Vincent: My previous car, before the pause on payments, my car had like 230,000 miles on it, it's breaking down left and right. Keep trying to check my credit, like, Oh, I got to get in the car, I got to get in the car but I can't, I'm trying to figure that out. And then all of a sudden, my student loans go away, come off my credit. And boom, I'm like, Oh, I'd qualify for this loan to get this car.

Let me go ahead and get this now. You know, what I'm saying. It takes so much off your back. And that's what I think that they don't realize, they don't realize the weight that's on everybody's shoulders because of this.

Lee: For more than two years now, the government has continued the pause on federal loan payments. But when Biden announced his plan for student debt relief this summer, he also made it clear that payments would restart in January. Jonah says that come January, there's absolutely no way he'll be able to afford his student loan bills, which total $580 a month.

At this point, his plan is to just not pay them and hope and pray for the best. Before the loans, and the stress of whether and how to pay those loans. Jonah always knew college will be part of his future, the biggest motivators were his parents who both have college degrees.

Vincent: It's a different time as far as economically money wise. But I think probably the same culturally, like, you got to do something. You don't what I mean?

Lee: Whatever it takes.

Vincent: Yeah, it's the same thing. It's like, you know, what you're going to do, you're going to go work, you're going to get your degree, what you're going to do, you know what I'm saying.

Lee: He says he didn't give the debt, a lot of thought, until it was time to graduate.

Vincent: So I was, there was a point man where, you know, when you start to think about it. And I say that point didn't come until after undergrad, when I got that first interview, and I was like, Oh, boy. And I was like, how can I get -- am I going to be good if I go straight to grad school? And I was like, the answer to that question was yes.

Lee: The administrator told Jonah, if he went to grad school, he could defer his student loans until after he got out. But if he didn't, he'd have to start making payments within six months.

Vincent: So I was like, Okay, let me just go straight to grad school while I try to figure out how to how to handle this. But that just means, you know, more money. Yeah, more money.

Lee: And so when you left undergraduate, how much debt were you in?

Vincent: I was roughly about 80? Yeah.

Lee: That's like a big number, man. 80.

Vincent: It is a big number, it's a huge number. It's not as much as some people I know, that's the thing you know what I mean?

Lee: For Jonah, the student loan crisis, always comes back to the racial wealth gap. He says his family is the perfect example.

Vincent: My family didn't have a lot. You know what I mean. We had enough. When you start looking at like, you know, listening to my dad talk about stories of who my great, great, grandfather was, you know, the story that they tell was that he was a runaway slave.

Could you imagine if, where my family would be or where our families would be, if we weren’t able to establish ourselves and have things to hand down. And the only way that we can really come up in this country is through education, really.

Lee: Americans are taught that college degree matters. But for black Americans, there's an extra significance. At one point, we were literally and legally forbidden from learning to read and write. So now, being able to achieve at this level is a source of pride. And a college degree in particular, is one of the most reliable paths towards upward mobility.

But with college being so expensive, and so many black graduates and their families trapped with student loans, they're unable to pay off. Getting that degree can turn into a catch 22.

Vincent: When we start talking about canceling student debt, you know how many black kids, young black folks that have student debt? How many of them would be able to buy property? You know what I mean to be able to buy property, buy a house or start that business, take out that business loan? You know what I mean. To cultivate their idea.

Lee: We get off the freeway and as we approach NC Central, Jonah turns and looks out the window.

Vincent: I was going to take you by the by the projects man, right down the street. So you can see it like and it goes down that, You know what I'm saying. It goes down in the mat, man. And it's right. Right there.

Lee: I wonder how many folks that live over there now had dreams of coming here. But again, the financial barriers were too high.

Vincent: Or educational system failed.

Lee: Right. Right.

Vincent: You know what I'm saying?

Lee: It's probably most likely.

Vincent: Yeah. Right. It's real, it's real.

Lee: Jonah says when he started his advocacy organization, NoCap, which is a play on the slang term for a lie, he knew that HBCUs would be crucial.

Vincent: When I started NoCap, I wanted to make sure that we centered at HBCUs because I wanted to make sure that all these young people, not just the ones on campus, you know what I'm saying? Folks that are in the surrounding neighborhoods have an opportunity, you know what I'm saying.

We organize young folks, man, we meet our folks where they are.

Lee: Galvanizing the student base is one of NoCap's strengths, mixing activism and history with culture. Their actions include lobbying the representatives to cancel student debt, and a Get Out the Vote campaign in Charlotte, with hometown rapper, The Baby back in 2020.

CROWD: Baby what? Vote baby vote.

Archival Recording: Why is this so important to you today?

Archival Recording: Because we got to get out and vote, man, somehow, we got to get us excited to really get out there and -- it's just a super big deal.

Lee: As we finally turned the campus, I asked him how he was feeling.

Vincent: You know? So it's always good to be back home, where you kind of earned the stripes where you became part of who you are. This is the -- that’s the music building right there so I used to spend my time in the art building. This way is Jazz Studies building, this is all musicians standing outside. Felt like home, man.

Lee: Coming up, Jonah and I sit down with a couple of students at NC Central to hear about their experience with student debt as current undergrads. And Jonah offers up some advice.

Stick with us.


Archival Recording: (INAUDIBLE) is so nice today.

Archival Recording: It was, I would love to like put a hoodie on and come do some homework out here.

Archival Recording: Yeah, I don't know why we all can just let hate (INAUDIBLE) I don’t get it and just chill like (INAUDIBLE)

Lee: When we get to campus, Jonah and I walk over to The Green Bowl, a central meeting area and spot for events at North Carolina Central. We're there to meet two current Central students and good friends. Heaven and Mark way.

MarQuay Spencer-Gibbs: My name is MarQuay Spencer-Gibbs. I'm originally from Inglehart North Carolina, and I'm a senior English student here at North Carolina Central.

Heaven Smith: So my name is Heaven Smith, I am from Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Lee: Heaven is getting her degree in criminal justice, but she's still young and figuring it out. Recently, she's been thinking she might want to go to veterinary school. MarQuay has known what he's wanted to do for a while now.

Smith: I really wanted to get in something I know that can make a difference. So then I decided I wanted to go to school in teaching. And we know that that requires, you know, higher education.

Lee: But his family couldn't afford tuition.

Smith: And there was also understand there was no college fund. So it was like, you know, you needed to apply for scholarships, she needed to work. And when I was looking at the schools, I was like, okay, I don't want to put my parents in the financial situation of it could definitely go wrong. So I decided to choose a school that was in state and of course, had still way to go so HBCU.

So ultimately my decision to go here, but that was definitely during that college application process with the understanding.

Lee: More than 85% of students at Central receive financial aid assistance, including student loans. For instate on campus undergraduate tuition, students are looking at about $25,000 a year. So how much in loans do you all owe? How much do you owe? You checking already like.

Smith: Collectively cost me about $37,000 a year, three and a half years, somewhere like in the 90s.

Lee: Wow.

Smith: Heaven says she has $19,000 of debt in her name. The rest are Parent Plus loans that her mom took out.

Lee: MarQuay, how much for you.

Spencer-Gibbs: Whew. So I'm...

Lee: Well, her laugh says it all.

Spencer-Gibbs: Yeah, that's a lot for me because I'm just thinking of like perspective on my own, $38,000 and my mother took out a Parent Plus Loan my first year.

Lee: Well for how much?

Spencer-Gibbs: I believe about $7000 to $8,000.

Lee: Wow, so $90,000 about $40,000 And it almost seemed like a generational thing. Like the weight isn't just on your shoulders, it's on your parent’s shoulder because they also borrowed some money.

Spencer-Gibbs: Absolutely.

Lee: Does that exacerbate things, does that make the weight feel even heavier? That it's not just you?

Smith: Yes and no. My mom, she took these loans out, but I have all intentions of paying them. In my head, I'm really trying to figure out how I'm going to be able to pay my loans monthly, but then also hers, like I don't want her to have to pay the loan, she fronted it, but I am going to take all of the - that's my goal.

Lee: These Parent Plus loans, like the ones Kamree Anderson's mom has have long lasting consequences. A recent report from the Century Foundation showed that after 10 years, the average balance remaining on a Parent PLUS loan was 55% of the original balance.

But for black borrowers, it was 96%. As Heaven and MarQuay talk about their finances, Jonah is nodding alone. Jonah, how familiar is what they're saying sound to you? You were not terribly long ago in their position right there into the world and realized that you're carrying a lot of debt, this education experience. Does this all sound familiar to you?

Vincent: Sounds extremely familiar. The alarming thing is that hearing this from these two young folks here, this whole campus is probably filled with other black students that have the same situation.

Lee: Jonah talks about student loan debt, like kind of as a trapdoor. Does it feel like it's something unfair about this whole loan system to you'll?

Smith: Yeah, I do feel like it's a setup, I feel like you know that this is what we need to just live. And you're going to have us take out more than half of our yearly income for this piece of paper that you know, that we're going to need. And then you want it back with interest. And there are people who have $50,000 in debt and have paid $40,000 and still have $30,000 left to pay. It doesn't - It's not adding up, because I think it's a setup, but there's nothing I can do.

Lee: What do you say, MarQuay?

Spencer-Gibbs: It is a setup. It is setup. And I say that because there are so many things, so many professions and industries that require that you have a degree like, you're going to tell a teacher Oh, you don't need that degree, or the engineer or your doctor that you don't need that degree. And so I feel like that, even more so for HBCU students, because we're underfunded now we have students that have to take out these loans to make up for the inequity in funding for institutions.

And I feel like that's another thing as well with student loans, the people that you know, speak about student loans, should it be canceled? I would say it's disheartening, because at the end of the day, most of the people that are here in the country don't have gold (INAUDIBLE) in their backyard to pay for college or to pay for, you know, the masters and doctorate programs.

Lee: But a lot of people say it's unfair to cancel it. You had this great experience on his wonderful campus and got this education. You know, why should you know the taxpayers foot the bill? What do you say those things be unfair? Oh, she's about to go in now. You can see her hair, she about to go in.

Smith: It doesn't make sense to me to be like, Oh, well, I had to experience this. So you shouldn't get to be better. But that's just me. I would love even if I have to pay my debt for the next set of kids to be like, okay, like, I was able to go through college and not have to worry, it is so saddening, when you have people that come into college and are so excited and really happy to get this experience and then have to go back home because your financial aid didn't clear or you can't afford it or anything like that.

Vincent: You said something that was really, that really struck me, that you said, that's just me. And we have to realize that you're -- it's not just you, there's a whole community of people that feel exactly the same way that you feel. We see this as wrong, and having these conversations like this, and building power around this particular movement, especially for black, young black students.

And it sounds cliche, but let them know we are vote.

Lee: I want to ask you Heaven, are you thinking about this student loan debt when you're going to vote?

Smith: I would hope there would be somebody that would represent me that could relate to me as a woman as a black woman, as a black woman with student loan debt, as a - as a person with student debt. I would want you to if you can't relate to at least sympathize and understand what needs to be done.

Lee: Where in terms of like, issues on campus among your friends how big a deal is student loan debt? Are you talking about this as an issue?

Spencer-Gibbs: We talked about it.

Smith: Yeah, we talked about - like my friend group, out of all of us, I think I think there's seven of us, we talk every single day. Three might have little to no debt. Everybody else has debt. And I mean, it's, sometimes we'll sit and we'll joke, because you kind of have to laugh at your pain. And one might be like, yeah, I have about 40,00, one will be like 40, like, I wish I had 40.

And that's just kind of how you make light of the fact that you're hundreds of 1000s of dollars in debt at 21 years old.

Spencer-Gibbs: And it's, it's crazy, because the narrative that's being pushed is that students aren't thinking about these things. And when we're signing these papers and the dotted line, it's the last thing on our mind, but it's very much the very first thing on our minds.

And it's a recurring theme in our conversation.

Lee: A lot of people have said, this step by the Biden Administration is a major deal that no other President has taken up. Other people say like, it's not enough at all. Which camp do you all fall in? Some saying like, you should be happy, he did anything at all. What side are you in all of this?

Smith: It's cute.

Lee: Cute.

Smith: I feel like I always say, you know, baby steps are steps, but they're baby steps. Now you need to walk. Of course, I appreciate it. I'm not ungrateful. But okay. You know that you could do more. It's just the politicking of it all and figuring out a way to try to appease everybody.

It's completely understood that what you might feel personally, as it pertains to politics, you have to do what satisfies the masses, what's going to get your vote, what's good for the look. But again, like I said, it's cute, like, thanks. But what's next? Because 20,000 on a 100,000? What's that doing?

Lee: Tell me MarQuay, is this a cute little step, looks good for politics, or is this something that could actually change the lives of folks who are carrying all this debt?

Spencer-Gibbs: Well, for me, it's nice. But again, there needs to be more done, the conversation should be geared towards not, oh, my taxpayer dollars are paying for this, but my taxpayer dollars are going into something that could benefit other people.

Lee: So how long do you think it's going to take you out to pay this debt off, the debt you have? How do you plan on tackling it?

Smith: God willing, you know, I pay it off. But that's a lot of money. And the way that interest accumulates, they probably never going to get all that money. But hopefully, you know, I won't be in debt for the rest of my life.

Lee: MarQuay, how do you plan on tackling this debt? I mean, you have any sense of how long it might take you?

Spencer-Gibbs: I’m taking -- definitely want to go to Teach for America, read the fine print on the Education Award to pay for my master's. And then with the current plan that's been in place, you know, for students about Pell Grants about $10,000, in cancellation, and then with Pell Grant it's 20,000.

And so the hope is to be able to pay that off before I get anything else in terms of a higher degree, or make any major moves, such as a new car or a home. Because after that cancellation, I'm still about 22,000 to 25,000 in the hole. And so that's my first priority to get taken care of.

Lee: You know, Jonah graduated 10 years ago from this college, he had his family starting off, but he was where y'all were, I would love to hear if you have any questions for him since he's experienced this, and what it's like to move into the world as a young adult, for carrying this burden.

Smith: I think that's my exact question. Especially as like, we prepare to start like our next stages of life. Like, yeah, like, how do you do it?

Vincent: I don't know. I don't even know. Um, you know, the only thing I will say is like, keep pushing forward. Young folks should not be asking these questions. You should be asking the question of, how can I - how can I achieve the dream that I have in my mind, and just also know that there are folks, there's voices behind you, echoing exactly what you guys are saying.

Lee: On the roads around Durham, Kamree Anderson is halfway through her DoorDash shift. Like Jonah, she's also got an eye on January, when her student loan bills will start coming in again. She's not sure what they'll be exactly. She's waiting to see how Biden's plan will affect her. But she thinks that'll be around $360 a month. That's a big chunk of her disposable income.

Anderson: I'm thinking about it but only thing we could try to do is get more money. Get out there and grind harder.

Lee: Kamree wishes Central gave students better information around financial aid and scholarships. But she's glad she went. She had a great time at the school, she learned a lot. And she needed that degree to have a chance at a career in crime scene forensics.

Now that she's got her foot in the door at the Police department, she hopes she can get closer to that dream job. And the debt will feel less daunting.

Anderson: I mean, me personally, I've just been trying to move up and try to, trying really hard to get into my career field because of course, it pays more than what I'm doing now. So that it will at least be able to be a bill that I can pay when it comes.

Lee: It's getting dark, and Kamree pulls off the freeway for a dinner break.

Anderson: I will do the cob salad, no tomatoes.

Lee: And again, it's not just Kamree, who will be thinking about January 1, when the pause when payments is lifted. It's her mother, Dina, that weighs on Kamree.

Anderson: And it's like now we're growing, she can do what she wants to do for herself. But then it's hard because you still have things to pay for when really this is the part of her life where she should be vacationing, and just having fun or even being retired.

But you're still having to pay for everyday things along with debt from education.

Lee: Kamree thanks her whole family for helping her get through college in whatever way they could. This car she's sitting in used to belong to her grandma (INAUDIBLE). They let her drive through college when she was delivering pizzas. And this year, she finally took over the title.

It's for those people in her life, that she keeps grinding and keeps working.

Anderson: Everybody doesn't have that opportunity or that blessing. So I am grateful for having a supportive family because they're not rich at all. But they've done what they had to do because they believed in me and believe that I will put in the work to get where I want to be so they knew that it will pay off. So I'm very much grateful that they decided to help me out so there's always like a way out of a storm.

So I believe that things will change for the better at some point.

Lee: A special thank you to all current and former North Carolina Central Eagles for sharing their stories with us this week. To hear more from our HBCU tour, check out last week's episode from Texas Southern University where we spoke with students about the battles over CRT and next week, we're headed to FAMU, home with the rattlers to learn how students are getting on the water to understand the impact of climate change on the region's sea life.

Archival Recording: So it's very important for us to be on the front of this, because we are as black people like directly genuinely affected by climate change when these water levels and things start to rise and land starts to just warp and stuff, it's these black and brown neighborhoods in these minority communities who are in these places that are directly affected by these things.

Lee: Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook using the handle @intoAmericapod. Or you can tweet me @TrymaineLee. Our email is intoAmerica@NBC Into America is produced by Sojourner Ahebee, Isabel Angel, Allison Bailey, Mike Brown, Aaron Dalton, Max Jacobs, Olivia Rashard and Joshua Sirotiak.

Original music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Aisha Turner. Special thanks to Stefanie Cargill, Joe Frieda, Sam Griffin, Allison Lau, and Ben Turney and thanks to Christian Whitacre for helping me record today at FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication recording studio. I'm Trymaine Lee. We'll see you next Thursday for more of our series, The Power of the Black Vote.