There are frustrating reasons LGBTQ students are more in debt than their peers.
Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images.

From legalizing marriage equality to advocating for society to better understand the fluidity of gender and sexuality, activists have made incredible strides for queer and trans rights and success in the U.S.

But there's a group of LGBTQ individuals that's struggling, and it's clear that changes need to be made.


LGBTQ college graduates have, on average, $16,000 more in student loan debt than the general population, according to Student Loan Hero.

Through a survey, they found that 60% of LGBTQ students regret taking out student loans, and more than a quarter of respondents feel that their debt is not manageable. Queer students face an uphill battle against student loan debt, falling even further in the debt hole than their peers.

So, why is this happening?

Miranda Marquit, the report's lead author, says there's a chance that a lack of strong familial support may be behind it.

"Only 39% [of those surveyed] feel completely accepted by their families," Marquit writes in an email to Upworthy. "Some of these borrowers might not receive the same level of support that other students receive, including the ability to live at home (33% report being kicked out) or direct financial support, leaving [them] with little option but to borrow more."

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In addition to lacking family support and housing, Marquit found that many borrowers often feel the need to "prove themselves" at more prestigious — and often more expensive — schools.

"Anecdotal evidence from people we've talked to indicates that there is some added pressure to show that they are super-successful and can 'make it' at more prestigious schools, which can also lead to higher debt," Marquit writes.

Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

LGBTQ students also face discrimination when applying for more affordable loans and jobs, leading to long-term debt challenges.

Queer financial expert John Schneider corroborates Marquit's findings, adding via email that "many respondents to the survey said they've been discriminated against when applying for loans because they're LGBTQ. Consequently, these students may have assumed loans with less ideal, less competitive terms."

Discrimination against marginalized groups is nothing new in in this country.

Landlords frequently refused to give black Americans home loans before the Fair Housing Act in 1968, limiting black mobility and financial well-being; banks have discriminated against black and Latinx homebuyers for decades; and Asian business owners have reported discrimination in regards to health inspections for years.

The reality is that discrimination has had a persistent, pervasive impact on marginalized groups. And its effects go beyond student debt.

LGBTQ borrowers are 53% more likely than the general population to make under $50,000 per year, and less than half reported having a retirement savings account, according to the report. With limited financial stability, not only are LGBTQ graduates in debt, they're struggling just to make a dent in it.

A lot of this, according to Schneider, has to do with how we treat LGBTQ people in the first place. "We need to start truly valuing LGBTQ people and people of all diversity and backgrounds," Schneider writes. "Kicking your son or daughter out of your home or making them run away for their safety makes you an unfit parent, and society should hold you accountable. Not treating someone equal because they're LGBTQ, black, female, etc., makes you unfit for your job, and your company should let you go."

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While the statistics are frustrating, Marquit and Schneider believe that there's room for progress.

Marquit points out that schools could more effectively focus on better student loan education efforts to inform LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ students alike of debt realities.

Schneider says to make sure that Pride isn't just reflected on a banner but also in hiring and financial practices.

"Depending on your LGBTQ status, we can still be denied housing, employment, and services in 28-30 states in this country," Schneider writes. "So, while we appreciate the Fortune 500 companies attending and sponsoring Pride this month and putting rainbows in the logos for June, how about they push for the equality of their employees, past, present, and future, in those 28–30 states for the next 11 months?"

Our LGBTQ students deserve more, and our schools, financial institutions, and the general public can help ensure they have the financial health they deserve.

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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