Black Colleges Are Not Closing!


An Internet posting has circulated for months saying that Black colleges are closing. Ra, our Internet guru, has asked us to clarify the issue. The so-called targeted schools were listed as follows:

1. Allen Univ. (Columbia, SC)
2. Arkansas Baptist College (Little Rock, AK)
3. Barber-Scotia College (Concord, NC)
4. Central State Univ. (Wilberforce, OH)
5. Houston-Tillotson College (Austin, TX)
6. Jarvis Christian College (Hawkins, TX)
7. Lane College (Jackson, TN)
8. Mary Holmes College (West Point, MS)
9. Miles College (Birmingham, AL)
10. Paul Quinn College (Dallas, TX)
11. Southwestern Christian College (Terrell, TX)
12. Texas College (Tyler, TX)
13. Texas Southern Univ. (Houston, TX)
14. Wiley College (Marshall, TX)

One post said that most of the targeted schools are  in Texas and that the longhorn state "treats Blacks poorly," asserting that Texas has the worst death penalty laws in the country.

The idea being, it seems, that we shouldn't vote for George W. Bush because of his animosity toward Black colleges. "What has he (Bush) done for us lately?" We are then asked to forward the post to "brothers and sisters you know" who vote, an obvious political ploy.

But are those Black colleges really closing? Not by a long shot.

In 1998, with Republicans in control, Congress enacted legislation that dealt with college loan default rates. This legislation basically states that any college that has one of four students (25%) default on federal loans for three consecutive years can lose its federal aid status. The legislation applies to all colleges.

Losing federal aid status is a serious matter. Most Black schools couldn't pay their bills without federal aid.

But the 1998 legislation also includes a provision so that Black colleges who are in default can  continue in the federal loan program by filing a petition with the Department of Education by July 1, 2002, explaining how they will cut their default rates.

Why are Black schools defaulting in the first place?

One study says that 52% of Black students from the colleges listed above have family incomes of less than $20,000 annually. In fact, more than 50% of the students who defaulted on loans had family incomes below $10,000.

The Black Excel experience working with Black students suggests that there there is not enough counseling about how college loans work and what our responsibilities are.

We must run serious, no-nonsense workshops on loan responsibility from day one, including discussions about how loan payments (or failures to make them) are reported to credit agencies. Most of us must go into heavy debt in order to attend college and get that degree. We must know the rules.

As has always been the case, our colleges are often struggling on tiny endowments and sometimes are in a state of financial stress. For this reason we at Black Excel strongly believe that we should be putting more money into the support of our schools. We must "take care of our own," because we need every advantage that we can muster. If need be, we can meanwhile expect the government to continue to grant Black colleges exemptions from the 1998 legislation until those colleges can get back on their feet.

College administrators we spoke with believe that the rumors about black colleges shutting down is  politically motivated--an anti-Bush scare tactic.  (Note that seven of the colleges sited are located in Texas, where George W. is governor.) In point of fact, some of our contacts have also pointed out that trying to close down any of these schools would be political suicide for a candidate like Bush.

The default rates for many Black schools (recorded in 1994) were actually well within the range of acceptability:

Spelman (7%)
Xavier (9.3%)
North Carolina Central (7.1%)
South Carolina State (7.8%)
Howard (10.8%)
Toogaloo (11.7%)
Oakwood (7.5%)
Florida A ∓ M (13.7%)
North Carolina A ∓ T (10,2%)
Fayetteville State (7.0%)
Winston-Salem State (7.8%),
Lincoln University/Penn (11.6)
Hampton University (12.1%)

It was announced a few weeks ago that Harvard University has raised $2.6 billion in just seven and a half years--the largest capital campaign in the history of higher education.

As I write all this, I am shaking my head as I recall something Tony Brown recently wrote: "Black organizations spend $16 million a year attending conventions!"

Why don't we just tighten our belts for one year?  If even one Black college closes, we will have no one but ourselves to blame.

-Isaac Black

(The above is written as a sincere effort to present helpful information. Other ideas and perspectives are welcome.)

Black Excel Footnote (3/24/2000)

Last week 13 Black Colleges were given waivers with regard to their loan-default status. All 13 colleges (listed below) will continue to receive federal student aid despite their students' past defaults. The 13 schools have produced "acceptable" plans to the Department of Education for reducing their default rates.

The 13 institutions with waivers are:

Allen University, (South Carolina)
Arkansas Baptist College
Barber-Scotia College, (North Carolina)
Central State University, (Ohio)
Lane College, (Tennessee)
Mary Holmes College, (Mississippi)
Miles College, (Alabama)
Houston-Tillotson College
Paul Quinn College
Southwestern Christian College
Texas College
Texas Southern University,
Wiley College, (one of 6 in Texas)