This past weekend, President Barack Obama delivered the keynote speech at the commencement ceremony at Ohio State University. In his address, Obama urged the graduating class to take an active role in guiding the future of democracy in the United States; and, to fight for the issues that the they care about. A very good message, because as Obama said, “There’s a word for this, t’s citizenship. . . . Sometimes we see it as a virtue from another time.” He also quoted President George W. Bush’s 2002 address to OSU’s graduates by saying: ‘America needs more than taxpayers, spectators and occasional voters. America needs full-time citizens.’ Again, a very good message; and very profound. Yes, the future of our country depends on the good citizenship of our future graduates. After all, they will be our future movers and shakers, right?
Well, what about our potential movers and shakers who attend HBCUs? You know, students who choose to attend those historically black college and universities who represent some of our brightest in communities of color? Yes, the same kids who are often come from financially disadvantaged homes? Many of whom in some cases are in fact the first in their families to attend any institute of higher learning. Yes, what about those kids? Apparently, according to the following piece by Rennee Schoof in the Washington Post, there are thousands of students of color currently having a hard time realizing the dream of a college education. As good citizenship would have it, many students at HBCUs are being forced to leave school due in large part to a recent change in federal education policy. This change has, and will continue to put a damper on the hopes of students and parents of children who attend historically black colleges and universities.
You know, parents like myself?
This from the Washington Post:
A change in federal education loan policies has left many students at some of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities struggling to fill a gap in their financial aid and forcing hundreds to leave school.
A more rigorous system of credit checks has denied certain loans to parents to help with their children’s undergraduate expenses. The loans are available to all students at all schools. But the changes have had a particularly severe impact on thousands of students at historically black colleges, advocates for those schools say.
“It’s been devastating,” said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “The loan helped bridge the gap. For students and colleges that didn’t have additional resources, those students had to go home. And to me, that’s just unacceptable.”
The loans are known as PLUS loans and are available to parents of dependent undergraduate students, as well as graduate students. But a change in 2011 disqualified borrowers with unpaid debts over the past five years that had been referred to collection agencies or ruled as uncollectable.
Parents of nearly 15,000 students were denied PLUS loans as of last fall, with only 1,900 cases reversed on appeal, according to the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, an umbrella organization for black colleges known as NAFEO. The loan issue was a major topic at a recent association conference in Washington.
[...] Brown said figures provided to her by the Department of Education show that as of February, parents of about 28,000 students at historically black colleges had been denied PLUS loans. Among all schools and students, 400,000 PLUS loan applications were denied as a result of the stiffer credit criteria, according to Brown.
Education Department spokesman Daren Briscoe declined to provide specific numbers. But he said about 80 percent of the students who were denied the PLUS loans ended up enrolling in school anyway. He said the department contacted thousands of borrowers who were denied the loans and reconsidered some cases.
Among the historically black colleges, North Carolina Central University in Durham had 609 denials of PLUS loans, the largest amount, according to data from NAFEO.
The group reported loan denials at other schools, including 607 at Howard University in Washington; 569 at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee; 528 at Prairie View A&M University in Texas; 448 at South Carolina State University in Columbia; 407 at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro; 260 at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C.; 130 at Kentucky State University in Frankfort; and 66 at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, N.C.
At South Carolina State, where more than half of the students come from families earning less than $30,000 annually, enrollment dropped by about 700 students since last year, largely because of the stricter requirements, said Eric Eaton, assistant vice president for finance.
“What I personally see a lot of, at the beginning and end of the semester, more students are coming to me directly, trying to determine if the university has resources they can tap into,” he said.
It’s bad enough that black unemployment has been giving us the blues. But it’s even worse knowing that even while one attempts to make things better for themselves, that this issue exists as yet another hurdle for countless students of color, and parents alike. Let’s be honest: The current return on the investment that is a college education today isn’t what it used to be. Even so, for people of color, it still places us at an economic advantage. That said, you’ll never hear me discourage anyone from attending college — heck, I have two daughters currently in college. So quite naturally, I’m sure you can understand why this is a concern for me. But hey, nothing is easy; and it attending college was so, there would be many more people attending — that is, if they could afford it of course. And from the looks of it, Obama and crew has made it a lot harder for po’ folk.
However, as good citizenship would have it, black colleges and universities are considering a lawsuit against the Obama administration for this new policy. Aside from being a parent with two girls in college, I see this as a major issue and one that requires the collective rising of voices. Why? Well, maybe it’s just the citizenship in me that feels this way. Besides, students of color can’t all attend Ohio State University and other predominantly white institutions of higher learning. Which for black students might be a good thing since studies show that it HBCUa are better.