Newswire: Record $1.7 Trillion student debt drowns HBCU borrowers

Calls for Loan Forgiveness Gain Support

By Charlene Crowell

( – As the cost of a college education continues to rise, an estimated 45 million consumers collectively owe a record $1.7 trillion dollars in student debt, according to the Federal Reserve, — a $905 billion increase in just the past decade.
For Black America, the struggle to gain a college education is an even more daunting challenge. While historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) continue to provide value-priced higher education compared to non-HBCU institutions, financing college often means students and families alike taking on loans that can take decades to retire.
An October 28 virtual panel of student debt experts and cancellation advocates discussed how the ongoing student debt crisis has generally impacted Black borrowers nationwide, and particularly Black borrowers at HBCUs. Co-convened by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), and funded by a grant from the Lumina Foundation, the forum emphasized the need for across-the-board student loan cancellation, as well as increased HBCU funding.
“We were taught early on if you go to college, you do well, you can have a great life, only to find ourselves in a debt cycle that many will not be able to get out of,” said Derrick Johnson, a panel participant and President of the NAACP. “Almost half of Black graduates owe more on their undergraduate student loans four years after graduation than they did when they received their diplomas.”
“Not only do they have less wealth to borrow on to pay back loans because of the racial wealth gap, but the underfunding of HBCUs compound the financial challenges which result in higher debt for students who attend these schools,” said Rep Alma Adams.
The North Carolina Congresswoman speaks from experience. An HBCU graduate and professor for 40 years before joining Congress, Adams is also the founder and chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. Since its inception in 2015, this bipartisan and bicameral caucus has procured $1.3 billion for HBCUs to rebuild campus infrastructure, and $40 million in HBCU scholarships for land grant colleges through the Farm Bill.
For the estimated 300,000 HBCU students attending one of the 101 accredited campuses spread across 19 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, these funds help but do not fulfill the escalating costs of securing a college degree. Among these students, 80% are Black, 70% are from low-income families and 41% are the first generation of their family to attend college, according to UNCF.
As a result, many HBCU students and their parents often need a combination of student loans, Pell Grants, and jobs to offset limited family contributions to college educations.
As students increase job hours as part of financial aid packages, the amount of time required to complete a traditional four-year degree is also increasing.  Today, most students – 60% — earn their baccalaureate degrees in six years. Only 39% graduate in the traditional four years. And the longer it takes to graduate, the number of loans and their indebtedness increase as well.
Pell Grants, a needs-based federal program designed to serve low-income students and their families, has also failed to keep pace with rising college costs. The maximum annual Pell Grant award for the 2020-2021 school year is $6,345; due to the program’s sliding scale that takes family income, size, and contributions into account, this aid can be as low as $639. In the 2019-2020 academic year, approximately 6.9 million students received a Pell Grant that averaged $4,117.
While this amount of financial assistance is helpful, the actual annual cost of college surpasses the financial capabilities of most Black Americans. For the 2020-2021 academic year, the annual average cost of attending a moderately-priced, in-state public four-year institution is $26,820. For out-of-state students attending the same college, the annual cost jumps to $43,280, and the average cost of attending a private, four-year college is even higher at $54,880.
By comparison, the annual average cost of attending an HBCU is 28% less than that of a non-HBCU institution, according to UNCF. Average public HBCU tuition and fees for the same academic year are $7,195 for state residents and $14,966 for out-of-state students. At private HBCUs, like Howard University, Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, annual costs run higher, but are still less than $30,000.
When median family incomes are compared by race, the ability to finance college education shows stark differences. In 2020, Black median family income was $57,480, while that of white families was $96,170, according to the College Board, a nonprofit institution that since 1900 has been dedicated to promoting excellence and equity through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and schools.
In response to these and other educational concerns, a growing chorus of stakeholders are calling for federal student loan forgiveness to alleviate decades-long debt and give all college graduates the opportunity to build wealth.
Graduates from many HBCUs earn starting salaries in excess of $50,000. Further, for STEM graduates, starting salaries can bring more than $60,000. At face value, these salaries seem sufficient to begin a career – until the cost of student loan repayment takes several hundred dollars each month away from net earnings.
“HBCUs are known for their culture, homecomings, but more importantly, they produce the world’s greatest and top black doctors, lawyers, engineers, and STEM graduates,” said Jaylon Herbin, panel moderator and a CRL Outreach Associate. “Without our HBCUs, Black America would not be what it is today. We must continue to leverage the support and funding for HBCUs, so that the graduates that they produce are not burdened by student debt.”


Senator Doug Jones announces bipartisan solution to permanently fund HBCUs and simplify federal student aid application

Legislation includes permanent funding for HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions by eliminating administrative costs associated with FAFSA
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.) today joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce a solution to both permanently fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and to take a first step toward simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. Annual funding for MSIs expired on September 30, 2019.The solution proposed today by Senator Jones and his colleagues amends his FUTURE Act legislation to permanently renew $255 million in annual funding for HBCUs and MSIs, and will also simplify the FAFSA by reducing it by up to 22 questions. The amendment is paid for through reduced administrative costs achieved by allowing FAFSA applicants to give permission to the Internal Revenue Service to securely share tax return data directly with the U.S. Department of Education.
“The permanent renewal of federal funding is a huge win for our nation’s minority-serving institutions, which have faced growing uncertainty and anxiety since their $255 million in annual funding expired in September. Instead of making tough decisions to cut programs and staff this holiday season, they can now count on permanent funding that will enable them to plan long-term and focus on their educational mission,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Senator Jones has long championed the renewal of funding for minority-serving schools and also for simplification of the burdensome FAFSA form, which has proven to be a significant barrier for students who need financial assistance in order to afford college. Last year, Senator Jones proposed an ambitious bill topermanently extend and increase federal funding for MSIs before it was set to expire on September 30 this year. In the new session of Congress this year, he proposed a bipartisan bill, the FUTURE Act, to extend the funding for two years and give Congress time to negotiate a permanent solution. As the September 30th deadline approached, and in the months since the Senate allowed funding to expire, Senator Jones has worked to bring attention to the bill and has repeatedly pressured Senate leaders to allow it to come to a vote.
Senator Jones has also recently partnered with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the HELP Committee, to introduce legislation that would reduce the FAFSA form from 108 questions to between 18-30. Today’s proposal is a necessary first step to lay the groundwork for the passage of the broader Jones-Alexander FAFSA reform bill.
Senator Jones continued, speaking on the importance of FAFSA simplification, “With our proposal today, we also take an important first step toward simplifying our federal student aid application and helping more students achieve the dream of a college education. I thank my colleagues Senators Alexander and Murray for working to find a bipartisan compromise on two issues that deeply important to the people we serve.”
Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined Senator Jones in introducing the amendment.

Newswire : Report: HBCUs generate $14.8 Billion in economic impact

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)


Graduates of Howard University

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) generate $14.8 billion in economic impact annually, which is equivalent to a ranking in the top 200 on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations, according to a stunning new report by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

The report, conducted by the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business Selig Center for Economic Growth, revealed that Miles College in Birmingham, a 1,634-student Alabama school generates $67 million for its local region.

In total, the nation’s HBCUs generate $14.8 billion in economic impact annually; that’s equivalent to a ranking in the top 200 on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations. This estimate includes direct spending by HBCUs on faculty, employees, academic programs and operations, and by students attending the institutions, as well as the follow-on effects of that spending. • Public HBCUs account for $9.6 billion of that total economic impact, while private HBCUs account for $5.2 billion.

The economic impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) on their local communities has never been stronger, especially at Miles College in Fairfield, Ala.

A new report funded by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and

Fact sheets for the economic impact of individual HBCUs are available at

“It’s the first time that we’ve had a study conducted by such a professional institution to recognize the importance of HBCUs and particularly the impact on our community,” Miles College President Dr. George T. French, Jr., told the NNPA Newswire. “We’ve talked in general terms, but to quantify this is important so that our partners can understand the value of our institution. It’s a win-win for our region and for government partners who look to partner with us.”

The landmark study titled, “HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” makes clear that the benefits also flow to the local and regional economies connected to Miles College.

The study is a precursor to a larger report that UNCF plan to release on Tuesday, November 14, about the overall impact of all 105 of the nation’s HBCUs.

“The presence of an HBCU means a boost to economic activity, on and off—and even well beyond—campus. Stronger growth, stronger communities, more jobs and a more talented workforce,” UNCF authors wrote in the report.

The benefits flow to Miles College’s graduates, who’ll enter the workforce with sharper skills and vastly enhanced earning prospects, according to the report.

For every $1 spent by Miles College and its students, $1.48 is generated in initial and subsequent spending for the local and regional area, authors of the report said.

Miles College tuition for in-state and out-of-state students is $11,604 annually and the school offers courses in accounting, communication, education, humanities, social and behavior sciences, natural sciences and mathematics.

The study found that the school generates 730 jobs in its area, a total that includes 377 on campus positions and 353 off-campus workers.

For each job created on campus, another 0.9 public-or-private-sector job is created off campus because of Miles College-related spending, researchers found.

Each $1 million initially spent by Miles College and its students creates 16 jobs, according to the report.

“It’s eye-opening and, in addition to the 730 jobs created, there’s a 1-to-1 match for every full-time job at Miles, we create another job in our region,” French said. “So, we have about 377 employees on campus, but because of that, we’ve created 350 off-campus jobs.”

Miles College also plays a major role in the economic success of its graduates by enhancing their education, training and leadership skills, according to researchers.

As an example, the 196 Miles College graduates from 2014 can expect total earnings of $497 million over their lifetimes—a stunning 77 percent more than they could expect to earn without their college credentials.

Viewed on an individual bases, a Miles College graduate working full-time throughout his or her working career can expect to earn $1.1 million in additional income due to a college credential.

“What you’re looking at is, when you round it to 200 students, they already have over $2 million more in earning potential in their careers which increases by $1.1 million, because of having a degree from Miles College,” French said. “I think it’s important to have this conversation for young people, who must decide if college is worth it. At the end of the day, it’s a great economic decision.”

The figures also allow college officials to approach state and local government officials, when funding for recruitment and other programs are needed, French said.

French said, adding that because of the report he believes the city will be even more cooperative with Miles College. “With this study, we can go to the government and say we need additional money for cutting-edge programs and recruitment,” he said. “We’ve requested and will have a meeting with the city to compare our master plan with what the city is doing. Here we are, this economic engine with a $52 million annual budget and we can be helping the city with its master planning and their master plan can be intersecting with what we’re doing.”

Months after meeting with HBCU Presidents, Trump still giving mixed messages on Black colleges

By Jane Kennedy
Dr. Lesli Baskerville,CEO National Association for Equal Opportunity

( – Repeatedly during his first 100 days, President Donald J. Trump signaled to the leaders and supporters of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that the federal support on which HBCUs depend would remain a priority under his administration.
One sign of hope was an executive order that the president signed in February to move the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Education Department to the White House, which some believed was an indication that HBCUs would indeed continue to be a priority under the new administration that had been expressed by the President.
But, doubts surfaced just weeks later after dozens of HBCU presidents and leaders met with the President in the Oval Office Feb. 27 for a meeting that was widely panned as little more than a photo op. That same month, Education Secretary Betsey DeVos was heavily criticized for a statement in which she praised HBCUs as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice”.
HBCUs were actually birthed from legalized racial segregation when African-Americans had no choice but to attend Black schools. It was, in part, the aftermath of that statement that caused graduates at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach to boo and turn their backs on DeVos in protest as she began their commencement speech May 10.
Still, the Trump administration has sent yet another troubling message concerning HBCUs, contained in a signing statement connected to a temporary federal spending measure. The statement said, “Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account” among other funds, the order said, “My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender…in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.”
This HBCU Capital Financing Program Account, which provides HBCUs with funding at reasonable rates to build new and renovate infrastructure on their aging campuses, was created in 1992 as part of the Higher Education Act passed by Congress. According to Black lawmakers and other HBCU advocates, race is not a criteria and to qualify for the loans the schools must meet standards based on mission, accreditation status and the year an institution was established.
Hours after the White House released the signing statement, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, who is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana) issued a joint response that questioned both Trump’s understanding of the Capital Financing Program and his commitment to HBCUs.
“Trump’s statement is not only misinformed factually, it is not grounded in any serious constitutional analysis,” it read. “For a president who pledged to reach out to African-American and other minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive. We urge him to reconsider immediately.”
Dr. Lezli Baskerville, president/CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), in a lengthy statement noted that HBCUs serve diverse student bodies. “Since their founding, HBCUs have been open to, welcoming and supportive of persons from all races, ethnicities, religions, and both genders except for the gender-specific HBCUs,” she said. “HBCUs enroll roughly 30% of non-African American students. Their faculty is more than 40% non African American. Today 5 HBCUs are more than 50% non-African American. At least one is majority Hispanic serving. One is being shepherded by a white female president.”
If the administration were to withdraw from the program, she added, it would be “devastating to these equal opportunity institutions to whose presidents and chancellors President Trump pledged the largest investments in their history.”
The President has hastened to clarify the signing statement and assuage his critics, stating that the signing statement “does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical education missions.” Noting the executive order he signed in February to strengthen their capacity, he said his commitment “remains unchanged.”
On that, Baskerville is willing to give Trump the benefit of doubt and told the Trice Edney News Wire that DeVos’ decision to deliver her first commencement speech at an HBCU “is an important indication that this administration understands the centrality of HBCUs to the realization of many of its priority goals, including its education, workforce, economic stimulus, urban and rural revitalization, and infrastructure development goals.” Baskerville also said that the experience will help DeVos become an “even more potent voice” for HBCUs.
But, Conyers and Richmond aren’t buying it: “Sadly and shamefully, HBCUs, including the schools that President Trump met with, are left to wonder whether he wants to help or hurt them,” they said in the joint statement. “If President Trump really wants to help HBCUs, he’ll implement the proposals the CBC has suggested to him in several letters, including the letter we sent him on April 27, calling for robust funding for a host of programs that support students served by these schools.”