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Black Leaders Suggest Linking Federal Student Aid to Policies That Help Black Students Succeed

Washington, DC – Failures by K-12 school systems to prepare black students for college are compounded by inadequate college admissions policies and support programs, according to the black leadership network Project 21 who has a better deal — This, the group says, can make black students’ completion of a college education a difficult prospect.

As part of its”Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America,” Project 21 recommends tying federal student financial aid eligibility to minimum graduation rates as a means of incentivizing colleges to provide black students with the support they need to succeed. It also recommends, as a means of making college more affordable, setting tuition maximums in order for colleges to be eligible for federal financial aid.

Colleges are admitting black students who are sometimes unprepared for rigorous college environments. Blacks are sometimes accepted with lower SAT and ACT scores, fewer AP course credits and lower high school GPAs than their counterparts. The situation is worsened by colleges that do not provide black students with individualized support to overcome the deficiencies of their K-12 educations.

This failure is reflected in the statistics for six-year graduation rates. Just 38 percent of blacks earn their four-year college degree after six years. By comparison, 62 percent of whites, 63.2 percent of Asians and 45.8 percent of Hispanics receive their degreeswithin six years.

“Statistics show that too many families send their kids off to college but never get to attend a graduation ceremony despite investing tens of thousands of dollars. The six-year graduation rate for black students is just 38 percent. That’s abysmal! Colleges and universities receiving federal aid dollars should be held accountable for their graduation rates and their return on investment,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Stacy Washington, a nationally-syndicated talk radio host whose oldest child enters college this fall.

“Project 21’s Blueprint outlines steps to require minimum graduation rate standards in order for a school to be eligible for federal student financial aid. A requirement like this would go a long way toward students and taxpayers getting what they pay for in a secondary education.”

Half of black college students report accumulating more than $25,000 in college debt after four years in college. That compares to just 34% of whites who accumulate such debt. It’s estimated that every dollar of financial aid raises the “sticker price” of tuition by between 55 and 65 cents. Project 21’s Blueprint proposes reform of tuition inflation.

Better deal

“Black students are paying more and getting less these days. We need colleges and universities to appreciate their black student bodies throughout a full collegiate career, and not just for admissions statistics,” said Project 21 member Jerome Danner, who recently worked at a small college in the South. “Colleges take chances on black students who may initially need more help in keeping up with the curriculum. The combination of linking federal financial aid eligibility to graduation rates and keeping tuition manageable puts the priority not just on admitting students, but also retaining them. This not only helps them succeed, but also protects them from the depression and debt related to being forced to drop out.”

There are four specific Project 21 proposals in the Blueprint to give black college students a better deal, promoting their success rather than setting them up to fail:

  • Require schools receiving federal financial aid to meet minimum six-year graduation rate standards of 60 percent for the general student population and an initial 15 percent lower rate for minority students to be phased out over time.

  • Reprogram existing federal funding to provide additional resources to improve the infrastructure of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) if they agree to meet set six-year graduation rate standards.

  • Prevent tuition inflation by limiting the overall amount of grants and loans a student can receive and by limiting the tuition of schools may charge in order to be eligible to receive federal financial aid programs.

  • Prohibit federal funding to any school encouraging race-based campus segregation such as separate housing, student centers, recreational facilities and graduations.

“Along with schools needing to reform the way they nurture black students to succeed, they also need to mind the nature of the campus to prevent polarized race relations. Too many administrators are embracing radical practices like blacks-only housing and blacks-only graduation ceremonies that are really sanctioned segregation,” said Project 21 member Demetrius Minor, a campus organizer and political activist. “This is totally against the colorblind principles advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and the federal government has a duty to do what it can to stop it.”

Washington added: “There are plenty of schools where black students can thrive, but admissions policies that favor diversity over finding the right fit can be devastating to students already at risk because of substandard K-12 systems. Project 21 offers reforms that encourage schools to make the best choices for the student, and that provide our nation’s many fine HBCUs with the ability to step up their game.”

Each Monday between now and July 7, Project 21 will release reform recommendations from its “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America” covering a specific subject area. The tentative release schedule is as follows:

  • Reforming the Criminal Justice System (May 29 –Tuesday)

  • Reducing Economic Harm of Excise Taxes (June 4)

  • Promoting K-12 Educational Choice (June 11)

  • Strengthening Faith-Based Communities (June 18)

  • Stopping Wealth Transfer from the Poor to Non-Citizens (June 25)

  • Promoting Self-Determination (July 2)

  • Ending Excessive Regulation (July 9)

Over the past several weeks, Project 21 leaders have been briefing key staff at the White House and with congressional leadership about the 57 policy ideas – spread out over 10 subject areas and covering education, criminal justice, economics and more – that are available in its “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America.”

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by theNational Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.

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