Cuts to aid decreases college affordability

Freddie Allen | 4/29/2013, 9:17 a.m. | Updated on 4/29/2013, 6:32 p.m.
As President Obama continues to underscore the need to increase the college-educated workforce significantly by 2020, all except two states ...
NAFEO President Lezli Baskerville NAFEO

Because federal aid hasn’t kept pace with tuition increases, the cost of going to college has fallen heavier on families who can barely afford day-to-day expenses, let alone thousands of dollars in college tuition.

Black families held less than $9,976 in assets compared to $117,486 for Whites, according to the 2013 State of the Dream report by United for a Fair Economy.

“The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2018, 62 percent of all jobs will require at least some college education. That is up from 59 percent in 2007, 56 percent in 1992, and 28 percent in 1973,” the CBPP report said. The report added: “By 2018 the country’s system of higher education will produce 3 million fewer college graduates than the labor market will demand, Georgetown projects.”

Mary Frances Berry, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former assistant secretary of Education, said some actions by the Obama administration are counterproductive.

“On one hand the Obama administration says that they are trying to increase the number of people that are graduating from college in the United States,” Berry explained. “On the other, recent policy changes governing federal student aid and the continued erosion of state funding for higher education just don’t make sense.”

Even though some Black colleges and universities are experiencing challenges, Baskerville said others are thriving and would be doing better if they had access to the hefty endowments that aid White schools in times of falling enrollment and budget shortfalls.

Baskerville said that HBCUs, as a collective, only have endowments of $15.8 million dollars, compared to the average endowment of $122 million dollars for White schools.

“Those are dollars that are used to cushion the blows,” Baskerville said.

In the absence of vast resources afforded to some predominantly White institutions, Baskerville said that HBCUs must seek out entrepreneurial opportunities to sustain and grow enrollment during tough economic times.

Baskerville said that NAFEO is leading an initiative to not only provide greater access to entrepreneurial programs at HBCUs but to also turn cost centers into revenue-generating entrepreneurial opportunities as well

For example, Baskerville said that Johnson C. Smith, a four-year research university in Charlotte, N.C., started a bed and breakfast and is using an on-campus arts center as a resource for the surrounding community to generate additional revenue.

She said, “We have to make our campuses and our goods and services work for us so that we can generate independent resources and have more flexibility to help students that are unable to meet the cost of college.”