by Yvette Carnell
If you want to understand why Howard University, the richest of HBCUs, announced last month that it is having financial problems, then look no further than the Obama administration. When the Obama administration changed its financial aid policy and began checking the last five years of a parent’s credit history—which spans the deepest recession in modern history—for defaults, instead of just the last 90 days, as was previously the policy, the rug was pulled out from under black schools. This policy change forced 28,000 HBCU students to drop out, and cost schools $150 million.
The Obama administration is aware of how this policy change is impacting black students, but says it can’t legally go back to the old system. Since the Obama administration has been unwilling to reverse its policy, with Education Secretary Jim Shelton saying he may review the policy next year, HBCUs are considering their options, one of which is to sue the administration.
From The New Republic:
“We’re doing everything to avoid going to the courts, but that is absolutely an option,” Johnny Taylor of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund told me. “We cannot have a rule that impacts our community as significantly as this one does.” Taylor says his organization will initiate a suit this summer if it becomes clear the DOE won’t act before August, when students have to decide whether they can go to school or not.
As TNR points out, “HBCUs constitute three percent of America’s colleges but produce 20 percent of black graduates, 50 percent of black public school teachers and lawyers, 80 percent of black judges, and 90 percent of black BA’s in STEM fields.”
But even with such a strong record, the Obama administration has offered a lot more talk than federal dollars to HBCUs, offering only 1.7 percent of their total grants for higher education to HBCUs, even though HBCUs comprise three percent of schools.