Washington, DC — President Obama and Vice President Biden recently met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to discuss key issues such as economic security and education. They also addressed the future of the nation’s more than 100 HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
He reportedly criticized the student loan policies at HBCUs and insisted that low graduation rates, not federal funding cuts or his free community college plan, were the greatest threats to HBCUs. His free community college plan proposes to offer free tuition for enrolled students who maintain a 2.5 GPA and are making progress toward completing their program, but many critics say this will hurt the HBCU community.
According to Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA): “[President Obama] said there were some HBCUs that were not good at graduating students and if they did not improve they’d have to go by the wayside. In other words he didn’t show much empathy for struggling HBCUs. It was like ‘show me the numbers’ and if the numbers aren’t where they need to be, that’s it. It was a somewhat callous view of the unique niche HBCUs fill.”
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) also commented, “I was concerned about what the President said because it feeds into a narrative about the value of these institutions and whether they are equip to educate our students and what the cost is for doing so. Many of these institutions have not had a maintenance of effort on the part of states or the federal government and over time that wears on their ability to maintain standards or even advance beyond a certain level. It was very clear that he doesn’t have the same level of appreciation for what these institutions have done and could do in the future given the right support systems.”
So what really is the problem?
According to HBCUDigest.com: “Since 2008, HBCUs have lost more than $300 million in tuition revenue due to changes in federal loan and grant programs, and reduced funding from federal contracts and grants. The remarks follow recent criticism from White House Advisory Board Chairman and Hampton University President William Harvey during its regular meeting in Washington D.C., in which he chastised the Obama Administration for a lack of connection with the board on pressing issues impacting higher education policy.”
Others say the issues continues to lie with the economic status of Blacks. Despite major improvements to the economy and the nation’s employment rate under the Obama Administration, unemployment and poverty among African Americans remains high.
“Black America continues to be in a state of emergency,” the CBC said in a press release