How HBCUs Help Struggling Students When They Too Are Suffering

Historically Black Colleges and Universities else known as HBCUs are any historically black college or university established prior to 1964 and whose primary mission was and still is the education of black Americans and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the secretary of education. 

Education is important, and the core of formation for the HBCUs was to help students, especially the disadvantaged student get an equal opportunity as everybody else. Today, however, the cost of education is rising far beyond what we could have anticipated and it affecting everybody such that we are having a big population of millennials in debt. This undoubtedly is affecting their economic decisions. While the many efforts by the federal government to help students who are in crisis is just a scratch, there are many ways through which the HBCUs are helping their students avoid debt. In most cases, if the students are not careful, it is easy to run up $20k-$30k in debt in just a few years without the right education and exposure to financial literacy classes. 

Through several programs, HBCUs are stepping in to help students reduce the need to borrow money from the federal government keeping them off the scores of thousands of young Americans who are already in debt and have no degree. Even though many of these colleges and universities are still resource-stricken, with what they have, they have managed to help so many students stay out of debt. 

“You’re talking about under-resourced institutions that serve under-resourced people,” Dillard President Walter M. Kimbrough said. “A lot of times people are just trying to figure out how do we keep functioning as an institution and help students get the resources that they need.”

This cuts across the board, even for the wealthy HBCUs such as Howard University, the challenges are the same where we have a large number of students in need with just a fraction of a budget compared to the predominantly White Colleges. Over the decades, there has been a disproportionate share of resources between the predominantly white colleges and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The lack of a large pool of endowments to provide students with scholarships curtails the efforts of these universities and colleges to provide a fair chance to every student. Without adequate assistance, most HBCUs students rely heavily on loans that further exacerbate racial wealth disparities making it more difficult to save and invest. With a high loan, no degree, and a high financial instability, most of these students have no choice but to drop out of school. 

There are several experiments currently happening in most HBCUs to keep students in college without student debts. While some programs are very simple, some require radical changes to the way that the school operates. 

According to the United Negro College Fund, one in 4 disadvantaged college students can borrow up to $40,000 or more to attend. Statistics have shown that these students who borrow are more likely to struggle in repayment and default on their loans which means their pursuit of higher education is a wager. 

While on one hand, we have students who are suffering, on the other, HBCUs have come out contending that they too are suffering from trifling private investment and fluctuations. Many of the HBCUs are dependent on the tuition fees for their operations; this ultimately exposes them to vulnerabilities especially when students are unable to pay. Take Dillard University in New Orleans as an example, when it was hit by Hurricane Katrina, most of the buildings in the university were destroyed, forcing it to borrow money from the Department of Education. It struggled to pay the loan given the tepid enrollment. The loans have been forgiven and the school is on a better lane to recovery. This is not an isolated case, and it shows the all too common challenge for the historically black schools in that they lack a safety net to endure in times of crisis or in time when students are looking up to these institutions to help them through their financial crisis and at times trying to do both things at once. 

“You have a unique population of students, and you also have institutions that can’t pull from financial resources to support them like other types of schools,” said Krystal L. Williams, an HBCU expert and assistant professor at the University of Alabama. “There have been historic and unequal consideration for funding by corporations and foundations.”

 Though this has been the case, the trend is changing whereby there have been several HBCUs receiving sizeable donations for instance the Howard University in Northwest Washington which recently received a $10 million donation from the Karsh Family Foundation. This donation wanes in comparison to the tens of millions that the neighboring Georgetown University. This donation will go a long way to helping students who need financial assistance from the school sail smoothly through the Pell Grants. The Pell Grant is a governmental program for students whose families typically earn less than $50,000 a year. 

Surprisingly, almost half of undergrads students at the HBCUs qualify or are eligible for the Pell, and many students borrow to finance their education. 

Most of the HBCUs are already taking steps to reverse the financial strains, both them and for the students. For instance, Howard President Wayne A. I Frederick has introduced a tuition assistance program and added more incentives meant to help students have an easy time at the college. 

Those students who are in good financial standing are eligible for up to six credits during the summer and those that graduate within four years are eligible for a tuition refund

“We’re starting to see a lot more donations, a lot more interest because of these innovations,” Frederick said. “People are seeing the results and paying attention.”

In addition, Howard University will also cover the remaining part of the tuition for the students who have shown massive potential academically