Special Report

Mother’s Day 2024 Teaching Resources

Mother’s Day is a special occasion that offers a chance for students to learn and reflect on the significance of motherhood. As we approach Mother’s Day 2024, educators are seeking innovative resources to incorporate this celebration into their curriculum. Here is a guide to some unique teaching resources that can help engage students in this heartfelt holiday.

1. Digital Storytelling Projects: Encourage students to create digital stories about their mothers or important maternal figures in their lives. Using video editing software or online platforms like Storybird, students can combine images, text, and audio to craft personal narratives that celebrate motherhood.

2. Mother’s Day Interview Assignment: Create an assignment where students interview their mothers or mother figures to learn more about their lives, aspirations, and experiences. This activity not only strengthens family bonds but also develops students’ interviewing and listening skills.

3. Role Play Scenarios: Develop role-playing activities where students act out scenarios related to parenting and empathy. These scenarios can include dealing with daily challenges that mothers face or historical perspectives on motherhood.

4. Cultural Studies on Motherhood: Craft lesson plans that explore how different cultures celebrate motherhood and the diverse roles of mothers around the world. This encourages global awareness among students and an appreciation for cultural diversity.

5. Art Projects with a Theme of Gratitude: Facilitate art classes where students create artworks expressing gratitude towards their mothers or maternal figures. This can range from handmade cards and crafts to complex art pieces using various mediums.

6. Writing Poetry about Motherhood: Inspire your class to write poems focusing on the theme of motherhood. This activity helps enhance literary skills while allowing emotional expression through creative writing.

7. Interactive Bulletin Boards: Set up an interactive bulletin board dedicated to Mother’s Day in the classroom. Students can post notes, pictures, and drawings that highlight what they admire about their mothers or share memories they cherish.

8. Virtual Guest Speakers: Organize virtual sessions with guest speakers who can talk about mother-related topics such as maternal health, work-life balance, or historical figures who were mothers.

9. Mother’s Day Science Lessons: Introduce lessons that focus on the biology of motherhood, such as reproduction in different species or genetic inheritance patterns.

10. Classroom Fundraisers for Maternal Causes: Engage students in organizing fundraisers for charities that support maternal health and welfare, teaching them the importance of giving back and helping those in need.

In conclusion, Mother’s Day 2024 serves as an excellent opportunity for educators to introduce innovative teaching resources that not only celebrate mothers but also impart valuable lessons across various subject areas. By integrating these resources into their lesson plans, teachers can enhance learning experiences while acknowledging the profound impact of motherhood on society.

Four “Not to Miss” Education Conferences for EdTech Leaders

The field of education has a plethora of conferences and assemblies where educators and industry leaders gather to learn about emerging developments, instructional trends and market disruptors. If you are interested in attending a highly beneficial education conference to share, learn, and find new solutions to current challenges, consider these four “not to miss” conferences that stand out with effective programming and networking opportunities.

  1. The EdNET Conference – September 17-19, Scottsdale, AZ

Hosted by MDR, EdNET2017 provides senior executives from PreK-12 education companies the latest information on market trends, business partnering opportunities, funding sources, new technologies, and activities for key market players.

Now in its 29th year, EdNET is a business-to-business leadership forum, with peer-to-peer interaction. The conference  attracts senior personnel responsible for marketing, sales, business development and strategic initiatives, as well as top management from all industry sectors selling products and services to U.S. schools, including nonprofits and consumer goods.

Speakers include influential voices in education, such as representatives from innovative corporate players, education-focused investment and analyst groups, education institutions, education administrators and policy makers.

EdNET provides a forum for discussion and an opportunity for senior executives to consider not only the market they are currently working in, but also where the industry is headed. It has brought together top executives of companies whose products and services for schools constitute the most important source of instructional and assessment resources available to schools in America and beyond.

This year’s programming is built from conversations with an Industry Advisory Board, and leaders from various segments of the education industry. These Board members identify critical issues in the market, from both the business and customer perspective, and help to shape the topics, speakers and presentations of highest interest. This is one of the most well-established and well-attended educational industry conferences of the year. For more information, click here to visit the conference site.

  1. The iNACOL Symposium – October 23-25, Orlando, Florida

The iNACOL Symposium is sponsored by the nonprofit organization iNACOL, and it focuses on the education of children in grades K through 12. This conference is designed for anyone within the education field, whether a teacher, professor or administrator.

In addition to the opportunity to develop your network, the symposium offers a broad range of topics to help you explore new ways of teaching. There are over 200 sessions covering a wide variety of issues that fall one of the following foci:

  • Personalized learning
  • Policies
  • Competency education
  • Blended and online learning
  • iNACOL national quality standards

It is the kind of event that you must attend to get a real understanding of the scope and breadth of knowledge that is on display. You can check out the areas being highlighted at the symposium to see if they are covering a particular field. If you are interested in setting up an exhibition, they are still accepting applications.

While there are still months before the event, there are already several hashtags associated with it. You can post some of your own ideas or look up what others are saying with the hashtags #Policymakers and #Edleaders. You can also follow details about the symposium and other news and events by iNACOL by following @nacol on Twitter.

  1. DevLearn 2017 – October 25-27, Las Vegas, Nevada

If you are actively involved in using technology to help students learn, this is a conference you need to add to your calendar. The entire event is dedicated to different learning technologies and how they can best be used to enhance the learning experience. Sponsored by the eLearning Guild, you will have three days devoted to technology in education. You can speak with some of the leaders in the industry or share ideas with others who are enthusiastic about what technology can do to help students perform better both in the classroom and outside it.

You can follow the latest news and information on Twitter @eLearningGuild.

  1. ExcelinEd’s National Summit on Education Reform – November 30-December 1, Nashville, TN

To round out the year, you can go to the National Summit hosted by ExcelinEd for a look at ways to improve and reform the American education system. The focus goes beyond the classroom and examines how state and local policymakers and advocates can keep up with the latest trends to help students get ahead in their education. Some of the conference’s primary focus include the following:

  • Holding schools accountable for learning
  • Creating incentives for students to achieve more
  • Using technology to improve and customize education based on the student
  • Expanding the options for students and parents

By focusing on these details before the holiday season, you can establish some resolutions to help improve the way you, the local government, and the state approach education. To stay current on the latest news and changes to the event, you can follow the event on Twitter @ExcelinEd.

Final Thoughts

As the field of education continues to evolve at a furious pace, the need to assemble and share our thoughts and best practices is more important than ever. The conferences that were discussed in this piece are just a sample menu of all the valuable and relevant gatherings that will take place this fall. Our hope is that it provides a starting place for educational professionals that are planning to attend a conference in the near future.










HBCUs at Their Finest

Historically black colleges and universities in the United States were created when African Americans were blocked out of predominantly white institutions. Today’s climate is much different now that black students can attend the schools they were once not allowed to attend. This leaves HBCUs in a unique position.

Does America still need HBCUs?

As college enrollment numbers rise, with Black college students at their highest enrollment levels ever, the role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, have come into question. Before 1964, and even as recently as two decades ago, an increase in the number of Black young adults with college aspirations would have been welcome news for HBCUs.

Today, more Black college students do not automatically translate into higher enrollment numbers at HBCUs because the college landscape has changed so drastically since the golden days of these institutions. Diversity recruitment programs on traditional campuses, the ease of online degree programs, and the rising credibility and offerings at community colleges have eclipsed the cornered market that was once enjoyed by HBCUs when it comes to enrolling Black and other minority students.
As a result, it’s been suggested that HBCUs are no longer relevant and their purpose is now outdated and unnecessary for the students who used to depend on their offerings. With respect to the many quality non-HBCU higher education institutions, I’d argue that HBCUs are more relevant than ever and are in many ways, even MORE, necessary than their counterparts.  Here’s why:

HBCUs are still havens for the disadvantaged. The achievement gap in K-12 learning may be narrowing, but it still exists. Even minority students who end up graduating from high school drop out of college at higher rates than their white peers. While all types of colleges are picking up on this weakness and looking for ways to retain students, many HBCUs stand out as examples of how to succeed at having students return after freshman year. A U.S. News ranking lists Spelman College (at 88 percent retention), Morehouse College (82.5 percent), Howard University (82.3 percent), Florida A&M University (79.5 percent) and Winston-Salem State University (78.3 percent) as the top five HBCUs for having students return to campus after freshman year.

As a comparison point, the top 10 predominantly white institutions, or PWIs, had retention rates that ranged from 97.5 to 99 percent – BUT the retention numbers for minority students was lower. The campus culture and student-centric programs at these PWIs are stellar, but it also stands to reason that the students are attending top PWIs, like Brown University and the University of Notre Dame, are predisposed to staying in college anyway – while HBCUs have many more obstacles to overcome when convincing and encouraging their attendees to stay. HBCUs are also proving to be thought leaders when it comes to advancing rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students, with Morehouse College offering its first LGBT course this past spring.

HBCUs are blazing STEM trails. Many HBCUs are powerhouses when it comes to offering strong degree programs in science, technology, engineering, and math. HBCUs are important hubs for developing the greatest STEM minds in the nation, with 65 percent of all Black physicians and half of all Black engineers graduating from HBCUs. The Tuskegee University College of Engineering and Alabama A&M University of College Engineering, Technology, and Physical Sciences are not just top engineering schools among HBCUs – they are among the best in the nation. Spelman College is the second largest school in the nation that sends Black undergraduates on to medical school. Jackson State University receives the highest amount of HBCU federal research funding every year, at $68 million, and is known for its “research intensive” programs.

Claflin University students work alongside the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology and receive hands-on industry training and connections in the field long before graduation. The Xavier University of Louisiana has a consistently top-ranked pharmacy program and is a sought out school for those hoping to advance to medical school. Florida A&M University consistently ranks at the top of all colleges that graduate Black students with doctorates in natural sciences and engineering. In June, Fayetteville State was awarded a $718, 000 government research grant that included plans to oversee STEM instruction to local high school students. The advancements these schools are contributing to STEM fields are not just relevant; they are groundbreaking and an asset to the industries the graduates eventually serve.

They make college more affordable. As college costs climb, HBCUs remain reasonable options for earning college degrees and come with plenty of financial aid options in the form of grants, scholarships, and federal loans. HBCUs like Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale, Mississippi cost as little as $4,940 for in-state students for an entire academic year (before any grants or financial aid) or just under $7,000 for in-state students who choose to live on campus. Even out of state students get a pretty good deal – adding just $1,000 more to that total. Even HBCUs with top billing offer affordable routes for their students, like Howard University in D.C. that saw 52 percent of students in 2012 with their financial needs fully met. The financial assistance programs at HBCUs have an inherent understanding that their students come from a place where college may not be an option without the sound advice and financial assistance – and they step up to meet the needs of those students.

They adequately staff the workforce – and help graduates land jobs. During the latest Recession years, college career centers faced even greater scrutiny when it comes to helping students find jobs when they leave campus. The state of unemployed college graduates reached nearly crisis proportions at one point, with college graduates returning home to live with their parents after receiving a degree. HBCUs stepped up and worked even harder to help their graduates find the work they were qualified to accomplish after graduation. The 2012 HBCU Career Center Survey found that over 90 percent of HBCUs offered career workshops, career counseling, one-on-one resume writing help, one-on-one interview coaching, on-campus job fairs and on-campus interviews from prospective employers. Nearly three-fourths of the HBCUs in the survey said they also offered career development services for alumni. HBCUs are not simply training their students and sending them off blindly into their future careers; these schools are supplying well-equipped, highly-educated workforce members through connection programs that happen long before graduation day.

They remind us that there are still battles to be fought. As much as I’m a proponent of diversity in all of our schools, from pre-K to doctoral programs, there is some solidarity at HBCUs that would be a danger to lose. Despite advancements against discrimination, it is important to remember that the fight for civil rights and equality still rages on – and it extends beyond the Black community. It is vital to remember why HBCUs were developed in the first place and what role they have played in the fight for justice – producing such civil rights trail blazers as Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall. Though the initial mission of HBCUs may have evolved with the times, the reminder that education is an inalienable right for all Americans and those who chose to study from abroad, lives on proudly at HBCUs and will always be a necessary pillar of the U.S. college and university system.

Thankfully, despite the rough climate for HBCUs today, not all HBCUs are taking it lying down. In fact, many of them are thriving even today. Here are some of the many things HBCUs are doing to continue their inspired legacy.

  1. Helping those in need

Many HBCUs demonstrate a commitment to service.

For example, students at Bowie State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), have created an app geared towards aiding the homeless.

According to the school’s website, students “developed an electronic kiosk designed to link people seeking the help of local shelters with up-to-date information about what is available in their community.”

The students presented their idea and model in Washington D.C. at the Capitol Hill Maker Faire, a festival that allows makers who use technology to show off their ideas and models.

The kiosk is made-up of “a mini-computer, wireless internet adapter, and computer monitor.” This way those in need will have the ability to check for resources at local shelters and if those shelters have space available.

This project is targeted to those in need in Prince George County, “the second-most populous county in Maryland.”

While this model was created by students and only presented at the Maker Faire, hopefully, such an innovative idea will receive more attention and possibly implementation statewide.

The idea surrounding the kiosk has the potential to streamline county, state, and federal efforts to help the homeless and those in need of temporary shelter.

This also helps Bowie State in the long-run as the university prides itself on being an educational destination for students interested in pursuing a career in science and technology.

Another school, Grambling State University have started collecting books for a prison near the school during the holiday season in late 2015. The drive has attracted the attention of other HBCUs across the country who have also decided to get involved, resulting in nearly 5,000 books being donated to prisons.

According to knoe.com, students in Grambling State’s psychology and sociology club decided to start collecting books for the correctional facility after seeing the dearth of books in its library.

Knoe.com reports:

“The HBCU Book Challenge began as an effort by Grambling State University’s Psychology and Sociology Club members to bring more reading materials to inmates in Louisiana. After seeing a small prison library with a shortage of books, club members were inspired to organize a book drive last spring that collected 225 books for the inmates at Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe.”

This isn’t the first time Grambling has held the book drive. It was the great results from the first one that made students decide to do it again and give it the official title of HBCU Book Challenge.

Other HBCUs got involved, including Alabama State University, Alcorn State University, and Savannah State University.

All four schools collected almost 5,000 books “for prison libraries in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.”

The book drop-offs began on December 1st and were distributed throughout the month.

With the success of this program, it is likely to continue next year and for years after. I love the outreach these students have taken upon themselves, and I hope their acts of generosity improve the educational outlook for the prisoners they’ve gifted.

  1. Taking home lots of awards

In addition to doing good deeds, HBCUs are winning awards for their excellence.

Take Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) for example. Their president, Elmira Mangum, was awarded HBCU ‘President of the Year’ at the AARP HBCU Awards at Hampton University.

“Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., was awarded the prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) “Female President of the Year” Award presented by the HBCU Digest Friday night at the annual AARP HBCU Awards ceremony at Hampton University,” according to WCTV.tv.

Magnum’s presence has been good for the university. The article further states how well she’s been received and awarded this past year. In addition to receiving this award, she was also honored at the Onyx Awards, named to the USDA Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC), and was placed on EBONY magazine’s list of 100 powerful people.

In conjunction with Magnum’s good news, FAMU was recently named as the top HBCU in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. That’s a pretty big deal.

For recruiting purposes, this news will surely be used to lure more students to the prestigious university. Hosting a president of the year and laying claim to being the best HBCU in the nation isn’t a bad way to brag on one’s school. The accomplishments of schools like FAMU that attract news attention are good for all HBCUs because they lift the credibility, relevance and overall name recognition of the schools.

FAMU isn’t the only school that is worth recognizing.  

Raising $92 million to improve the University, receiving a $75,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and hosting the South Carolina Collegiate Journalist of the Year are fairly significant achievements all on their own. One university can claim them ALL as its own, though.

Claflin University was named HBCU of the Year by the HBCU Digest Alumni Association.

According to thetandd.com, the school likely got the award mostly for its participation from its alumni, though. The involvement of graduates who are returning their financial and workforce bounty back to their alma mater are boosting the clout of the HBCU.

“The combined success of the campaign and the generosity of Claflin alumni were largely responsible for Claflin winning the HBCU Digest Alumni Association of the Year Award. In 2013, alumni annual giving rose to an all-time high of 52.2 percent, among the best in the nation for all colleges and universities. Claflin continues to be the perennial leader among HBCUs in this category.

Claflin came just $8 million short of the goal for its capital campaign. The school’s board of trustees led a charge to raise $100 million to “build the endowment, strengthen academic programs and enhance facilities.”

Claflin has less than 5,000 students, so successfully raising nearly $100 million to improve the school’s positioning to recruit and make it more viable makes the feat look even better.

Alumni involvement, specifically financially, isn’t likely to tail off anytime soon. That’s good news for any student looking to call Claflin home for the next four years and really for other HBCUs that are hoping to recruit students.

And finally, one other school has a lot to brag about.

Dillard University in Louisiana has always been known as one of the nation’s best HBCUs. The institution for higher education has been nominated for some awards at the HBCU National Media Summit should come as no surprise.

The university’s president, Walter Kimbrough, was up for Male President of the Year, and the school was also nominated for Best Choir and Best Fine Arts Program.

According to The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, of the HBCUs in Louisiana nominated for awards, Dillard received the most.

In addition to President Kimbrough, choir, and fine arts, Dillard was nominated for “Best Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program (Physics); Female Faculty of the Year (Kemberley Washington); and Male Alumnus of the Years (Michael Jones, ’82.).”

The awards are scheduled to take place in Virginia on the campus of Hampton University from July 9-11. NOLA.com reports that “proceeds from the ceremony will go the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, a nonprofit that supports HBCU’s through media exposure and education.”

Other HBCUs from the state (Louisiana) nominated for awards are Xavier and Southern University.

This is great news for Dillard as this will surely shine a bright spotlight on how well the university is doing. Heralded as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the south, it shows through the nominations that Dillard has received. Honors like this come at an important time for HBCUs that are increasingly competing with online degree programs and increasing the quality of community college offerings. Congratulations to Dillard and the other HBCUs nominated.

  1. Creating online courses and tech programs

With many minority students opting for non-traditional routes to obtain their degrees, now is a great time to embrace the online course.

For students who might have to balance work, the demands of daily life, and school, the flexibility online courses offer is a perk. Thankfully, some HBCUs are catching on to this trend.

Let’s look at Florida A & M University. According to HBCUBuzz.com, Florida A&M and the University of Phoenix have partnered to offer online courses for minority students.

“A new research project by Florida A&M University Developmental Research School (FAMU DRS), the Thurgood Marshall Foundation and the University of Phoenix will provide support for the creation of online courses to better-serve minority students.”

HBCUs have tried to offer online courses or full degrees in the past but with little success. This project will tailor its offerings specifically towards African-American, bilingual, and poor students.

“The online curriculum will improve and complement classroom teaching and will focus on math, which states exam results show is the subject FAMU DRS students struggle with the most. The online courses will be accessible through the University of Phoenix’s online platform in the form of learning resources and other materials, workshops and tutoring opportunities.”

So far, FAMU (Florida A&M University) has been the first HBCU to utilize the online offerings that the University of Phoenix offers. Educationnews.org reports that Phoenix “made its online platform available to historically black colleges and universities” in 2014.

The end goal for all involved in the project is to increase the number of minority students, specifically African-American students, who have successfully taken classes online. Moving beyond that, FAMU likely wants to offer an assortment of degrees online.

Then, going beyond online courses, there are initiatives to help students who attend HBCUs to the STEM field. According to the PR News Wire, the Apple HBCU Scholars Program and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund partnered “to create [a] diverse talent pipeline.”

Apple committed $40 million to the project to attract more HBCU students to the tech field. Needless to say, this could be an incredible boost to diversity in tech fields which have been traditionally dominated by white males.

“The multi-year commitment includes funding to build a talent database, internships for high achieving students, exposure to Apple’s campus and work environment, and funding of faculty innovation grants focused on developing successful ways to accelerate HBCU students into the tech field.”
To participate, students must be in their last year of study at an HBCU or PBI (Predominately Black Institution).

“Thirty successful undergraduate student recipients will be awarded sizable scholarships and receive year-long mentorships by Apple employees to include a paid internship at Apple headquarters next summer.”

Apple’s partnership cut to the heart of a well-documented issue: the tech sector and Silicon Valley are lacking melanin.

According to a report by The Washington Post, companies like Facebook and Yahoo are two of the Valley’s worst offenders.

“Yahoo disclosed last week that African Americans made up just 2 percent of its workers, while Hispanics stood at 4 percent. Those revelations came days after Facebook reported that in 2014 it had employed just 81 blacks among its 5,500 U.S. workers.”

By cultivating such a large effort, Apple at least attempted to curb the apparent lack of enthusiasm that some minorities hold towards the tech field.

  1. Prepping students for the workforce

A Gallup-USA Funds Minority College Graduates Report shows that “HBCU graduates are more likely to prosper after graduation than students who graduate from non-HBCUs.”

The news comes as HBCUs are under scrutiny for effectiveness and if black students are better served by attending Predominately White Institutions (PWI).

Some HBCUs are struggling to survive due to debt, but this report shows that the product being produced at America’s predominately black colleges and universities is pretty good. For anyone who has been lauding the relevancy of HBCUs for some time now (like me), this is music to our ears.

The study found that over 50 percent of HBCU graduates who were surveyed viewed their prospects after graduation as positive while just under 30 percent of black graduates from PWIs viewed them as positive.

Again–all good news for soon-to-be graduates and the health of HBCUs. Of course, there is always a ‘but’ when studies are released.

“The report found that four in 10 black HBCU graduates are more likely to thrive financially while fewer than three in 10 black graduates of other schools can say the same.”

That news is likely tied to the overall health of the economy and how graduates may find their place in an ever-changing workforce. I’m also not sure what the definition of “thrive” is in this case. There is a difference, I think, in being comfortable or being affluent.

Overall, though, this news is great for HBCUs and the students who attend them. The report found that graduates from HBCUs are better emotionally, have stronger relationships, and are more goal oriented as well.

  1. Discussing the future

During HBCU Week at the White House in September 2015, education leaders gathered to talk about the future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke to those gathered regarding the role that HBCUs play in America’s economy.

“The people who were once left out have to be brought in. One of the ways to accomplish this is to make sure we have the best-educated, most-skilled workforce in the world.”

Biden also noted that many volunteers from his first campaign for Senate were from Delaware State University, an HBCU he leaned on for support.

In addition to talking about the importance of sustaining HBCUs, Biden spoke of what the Obama administration has done to aid in the financial success of HBCUs, stating that the federal government invests about $1 billion into the collection of colleges each year.

But there is still work to be done regarding the health of many HBCUs. Some are facing financial ruin, and others are teetering on the edge of collapse. This conference will surely help to quell some of those fears as the White House works to reassure leaders that they are there to support and help to ensure that HBCUs are here to stay.

  1. Inspiring support from all over the country

Believe it or not, HBCUs have the support of more than just their students and alumni.

Known for his zeal for supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, host of the nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” Tom Joyner gives away scholarships to a high school senior planning to attend an HBCU every year.

Joyner said that because the cost of college isn’t decreasing, he wants to assist a “high school senior with a chance to attend a Black college to pursue their dreams.”

Since its inception in 1998, the Tom Joyner Foundation “has provided scholarships to more than 29,000 students, and, more than $65 million has been raised to support our HBCUs.”

Joyner is not the only one to award money to those who attend HBCUs. Coors Light ended the HBCU (Historically Black College and Universities) classics football season by providing $100,000 in scholarships to HBCUs across the country.

According to lasentinel.net, Coors Light gave scholarships “benefiting juniors and seniors aged 21 and older” who attended HBCUs.

“Supporting higher education and investing in our communities have always been priorities for us as a brand,” said Joe Sargent of the Coors Light multicultural marketing team. “The HBCU Classics are a great way to celebrate the unique culture and experience these institutions offer, and we’re happy to continue supporting higher learning within the African-American community.”

The support that Coors shows for HBCUs isn’t new. Over the past 25 years, Coors has given over $1 million to support higher education over the past seven years. 


The bottom line is that people and corporations from all walks of life, whether they are radio show hosts or former athletes, see the value of HBCUs as a cultural legacy and as a haven for minorities, low-income, and other non-traditional students. HBCUs, in general, are enduring many problems today, but they still manage to rise above it all with their efforts and with the heartfelt support of others.



How to Provide Minorities with a Richer College Experience

College is often an exciting and unique place to be for students and faculty alike, and the college experience is something that many Americans prize today. But it is possible that minorities miss out on some of the opportunities their white counterpart’s experience? Read on and learn some reasons minorities may find their college experience lacking.

Colleges in the United States are captivating places. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, some are major research hubs (such as Johns Hopkins University with its $2.2 billion annual research and development budget). They are also hot education destinations for some 270,000 new Chinese students each year. Many colleges are still expensive and average $9,140 in tuition every year, still, churn out business and marketing majors, and are the ticket to landing a better job.

But for minorities, college can also be inaccessible and hostile places. And this doesn’t just apply to students, either. It applies even more to faculty (the overwhelming majority are white) and, as you’ll read soon, to college football coaches.

Here, I will share with you how minorities often experience college. I’ll also give some suggestions on what to do to enhance the college experience for minorities.

The first step to having a positive college experience

College would be a lot more enjoyable if you were prepared for it, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to minorities who graduate high school and are ready for the rigor of college coursework, numbers are bleak. A new report from the College of Education at the University of Arizona found that less than 1 in 10 minority high school graduates in the state are adequately prepared for college. Non-minority students are not much better off, though, with only 2 in 10 prepared for college after graduating from high school. A rise over the past 15 years in minority students in elementary and high school in the state, as well as economic disparities between students of color and their white peers, are cited in the study as drivers behind the high school graduation-college readiness gap.

Arizona should not be singled out, though. Of the 1.7 million high school graduates that opted for the ACT college entrance exam in 2012, only 60 percent were deemed “college-ready.”

Arizona is a standout example, though, of the way the changing landscape of the country is impacting P-12 education and the college demands that follow it. Childhood classrooms today look vastly different from the ones even ten years ago and children, minority or white, come with different need sets. Teachers can learn only so much from textbooks and their school experiences – they must have the resources to reach students from different backgrounds, and understand how those students will change over the course of the teachers’ careers.

In the case of Arizona, some mandatory Spanish-language education would be a start, but the language barrier is only the tip of the iceberg. If students in Arizona classrooms are first-generation Americans, their parents are not familiar on a firsthand basis with classrooms in America and certainly not the university system.

Even students who are academically ready for college may not be emotionally ready for the pressure and responsibilities of self-learning – both things that need to be taught before high school ends.

I also think that the assimilation mentally of generations-past needs to be forsaken. It seems that all of the energy that goes into trying to “change” minority students who enter the classroom would be better spent adjusting teaching methods to ones of inclusion. The global economy demands that students understand that the world is made up of diverse people with a variety of backgrounds, and languages. To succeed as a nation, that recognition must take place, and those lessons must be included in the process of educating.

The “passing the baton” mentality also needs to be abandoned if students are truly expected to succeed academically after high school ends. If America truly wants to live up to its “Land of Opportunity” moniker, this generation of P-12 students needs to be viewed as a responsibility of their educators long after the high school graduation benchmark has been met. Instead of letting students make their mistakes in early adulthood, at least when it comes to the future of their careers and livelihoods, educators should stay involved and help bridge the high school-college gap.

Why Hollywood makes it all even worse

The 88th Oscars certainly stirred the pot on diversity in Hollywood, and how it impacts the rest of society.

Whether you are a fan of Hollywood, or Chris Rock, or none of the above, it’s important to understand the impact of what we see on-screen – and what it means for our next generation of P-20 students.

A recent report from Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism highlights the “whitewashing” of Hollywood films. In essence, the report found that even when there are roles available for minorities, they are given to white actors who then “dress the part” to pull it off. The roles the report mentions go above and beyond the old-school blackface that white actors used to throw on in film’s earliest days. Some are simply characters that were historical of color but were changed to have Caucasian characteristics in the films.

If you’ve been paying any attention to Hollywood over the past decade, none of these findings are shocking. In one of the most purportedly progressive industries in the world, women and minorities get much less screen time, talking time, and pay than their white, male peers.

So what does all of this mean when it comes to our college students? How does something as seemingly insignificant as Hollywood affect diversity in higher education?

Not enough role models

We already know that there are just not enough roles for black actors in movies or on television but let’s break that down a little further. Think about some of the most popular movies that showcased college students in the past decade – Neighbors, Old School, Van Wilder. In the spirit of classics like Animal House, these movies represented the fun side of earning a college degree in a constant state of inebriation but most of the students were white. You can probably spot a token minority character in each, but the lead roles all went to white males who, despite their often ridiculous antics, were still awarded degrees in the end. If they weren’t awarded degrees, they still landed on their feet with some other sort of job (unrealistic for all college students). The problem with leaving black students out of this college conversation on film is that it subtly sends a message that a higher education is something reserved for white, privileged men (and some women, too).

The scenario doesn’t improve when movies graduate to the adult world. When you think of a black man in a movie that is set in contemporary times, what role comes to mind? A police officer or detective? A drug dealer or pimp? How about a black woman? Except for breakthrough roles like Viola Davis’ lead in the hit TV series “How to Get Away with Murder,” there are not a lot of women in professional roles on-screen. As already mentioned, even roles that could feasibly be played by people of color are given to white people who are then praised for their outstanding performances acting like a person totally different from who they are. In truth, minorities are a vibrant, important part of the American workforce. They are professionals (who aren’t always in law enforcement), teachers, CEOs and small business owners. Where are these characters on screen?

The problem with slave movies

Even historical films have their issues when it comes to the way diversity is portrayed. Hollywood likes to pat itself on the back for films like Twelve Years a Slave but do they represent progress? These movies certainly tell important stories, but they provide roles that show black actors in a stereotypical light. Why have the only black-led films to win Best Picture awards centered on slavery? It’s almost as if Hollywood has decided that to fix this problem of diversity on screen, movies that have “black” roles need to be made.

That’s not the entire solution, though. How about making that fictional lead character who is a teacher a black actor? Putting black actors in a ready-made film category is part of the problem; it further distances them from the mainstream movie industry. It essentially sends the message that only explicitly black roles go to black actors – and that hurts the overall portrayal of diversity everywhere, including on college campuses.

Solving the Hollywood diversity problem won’t directly improve inclusion on college campuses, but it certainly can’t hurt. As higher education professionals, we should support the push to change what we see on screen – and point out the problem whenever possible to our students of all races and ethnicities.

Learning what matters to minority students

The upcoming elections are a great time to find out what issues are important to minority college students.

After all, there’s a lot of rhetoric in election years centering on young voters. What do young people want from politicians, and how can those politicians get those young people registered and to the polls? While voters who are older than college and young-adult age certainly outnumber this group, understanding what college students want from the people they elect matters a lot – both short term and long term.

So what do the college students, particularly minorities, want during the election of 2016?


If we’ve learned anything since Mitt Romney’s race for the Presidency in 2012, it’s this: Telling college students to have their parents “write a check” for their education just isn’t going to fly. Asking college students to take on heavy loads of debt is also a no-go. The students entering college today have the advantage of their not-so-much-older graduated peers who are more vocal than any other group in the past about why college attendance needs to be more affordable.

It makes sense. No one feels the squeeze of what college costs than the students who are living it and the young adults attempting to pay back high amounts of college debt on low salaries. Today’s college students saw their parents struggle through the latest recession. Some may have even lost homes. They are well aware of what a load of college debt means, and why it is imperative that affordable options be available to students from all life backgrounds.

President Obama’s proposal to have two free years of community college available for students who qualify academically has been met enthusiastically by young people all over the country, and their parents. Pay it Forward programs, like the one in place at Oregon state colleges, are being welcomed with open arms. The idea that hard work, not economic background, can help reduce the overall cost of obtaining a degree resonates with a lot of young people.

Today’s college students want a candidate who recognizes the significant financial sacrifice of earning a degree but who also believes it should cost less, period. This is an advantage particularly to Bernie Sanders, should he land the Democratic nomination, and even Donald Trump could be viewed favorable by young people for his public denouncement of federal loan programs that profit off of college students and parents. Hillary Clinton has also spoken out about not “saddling” students with decades of debt simply to earn an education.

Social issues

When President Obama too office in 2008, the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation was a far-fetched one. It was an issue that had passionate discourse on both sides, but not one that appeared it would move forward in the course of the President’s two terms. Thanks to very vocal supporters, and also to the rise of social media informing more people of the issue and hand and humanizing it, we all know that progress was made faster than anticipated.

The same is true of other issues now seeing greater awareness, in part again because of social media. Some of those include paid maternity/paternity leave, abortion, and reproductive regulations, and the gender- and race-gap when it comes to wages. These are important to college students and boils down to their elected officials doing what is right by them, and their peers. The social issues that matter most to each college student will determine the particular candidate of choice, and a range of conservative and liberal stances are represented among frontrunners Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.


College students today are hyper-aware of the issues surrounding sustainability on the planet. From oil fracking to water conservation to global warming – these young voters care what happens to the place they call home. Denial of such issues as problems is futile. Donald Trump’s recent comments that he wants to revive the coal industry are sure to turn off most young voters while Hillary Clinton has vowed to push comprehensive energy changes that support renewable sources and clean energy technology.

It’s almost surreal to think that by this time next year, we will have a new Commander in Chief. While college voters may not make the biggest impact at the polls, their voice will make a difference in who is chosen – and how that person is held accountable while maintaining the highest office in the land.

Is Entrepreneurship Pushed Enough for Minority Students?

In my decade-plus of working in higher education, I’ve noticed a trend when it comes to minority students: encouraging them to learn skills for jobs with high demand. Healthcare is a good example. We need more nurses, more certified nursing assistants, more X-ray technicians and so as a collective group, we push minorities towards these fields. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are other areas where we see an uptick in the aggressive push to find trained workers to fill openings. A US News analysis by Jonathan Rothwell found that advertising for STEM vacancies lasts more than twice as long as other fields and that there are roughly 4 million computer science jobs needed in America and only 400,000 graduates with those skills every year.

So we see that demand, and we tell students that’s where they should focus their learning efforts if they want to be successful, land a job, and contribute best to the economy as a whole. It’s not a bad practice from a job security standpoint. Training traditionally disadvantaged students in fields where they will likely find work is a sound principal. In doing this, however, are we neglecting the leadership opportunities where minority workers are so desperately needed?

In the push to fill demand in the already-established workforce, are we forgetting about the leadership and innovation possible with entrepreneurship?

Stats on Entrepreneurship in the U.S.

Most of the businesses in the United States are small ones, by definition. Some are sole proprietors, and some employ others (small businesses account for 55 percent of all U.S. employment). Collectively small businesses bring in 54 percent of all annual revenue in the U.S, according to the Small Business Administration.

Even though minorities are nearing the majority of the population, minorities head just 14.6 percent of businesses in the U.S. Black business owners make up 49.9 percent of that figure, and Asians are 29.6 percent. Hispanic business owners are at just 10.3 percent, but are the fastest growing minority business owning group, according to the SBA.

Many of these entrepreneurs do not possess MBAs or advanced leadership degrees. They are simply people who have melded their skills and talent into a business model that works. What if those people were given entrepreneurship advantages when they were still in college, but within their programs? What if, in the case of minorities, those classes were tailored to fit the challenges and needs of a traditionally at-risk population that is underrepresented in business leadership? Imagine the way those small businesses would look if their owners had just a little boost of support when it came to leadership skills.

What Can Colleges Do?

Colleges and universities should not just recruit diverse students for fields that need more workers – they should recruit them for every field. This means taking a few extra steps to get those students in leadership roles, no matter what their desired career, and not just training them to feed a pipeline of vacant jobs. Those steps include to:

Incorporate entrepreneurship in all fields. Let’s not simply train our students to work for someone else – let’s train them to start and run their companies. In every field entrepreneurship classes and paths should be available and students should know what it takes to rise to the top of their fields.

Hire minorities for leadership spots. Let’s show our diverse student populations what minority leadership looks like in practice by having higher education spots filled with them. Empower these college leaders to speak to classes on leadership and to be a present face that students relate to on a regular basis.

Administer leadership testing. Not every person is cut out to lead, but many may have the traits, but have never been given the opportunity. Colleges should administer leadership tests for all students, or at least those that show promise in their fields. From there, these leaders should be fed into a mentorship program that further builds their skill level.

Our mentality when it comes to educating minority students at the college level needs to shift from one that values necessity to one that envisions a brighter future. That starts by giving more minority students access to leadership skills and fanning the flame of interest.

What to tell our college students instead of “toughen up.”

In a piece for The Washington Post, Ferentz Lafargue, the director for the Davis Center which explores positive social change at Williams College in Massachusetts, pushes back against the mentality that protecting college students from hate speech and discrimination “coddles them.”

Lafargue’s comments come on the heels of two canceled speakers on the campus that had unpopular views. The first, conservative Suzanne Venker who has voiced her opinion that feminism has failed, and the second John Derbyshire, a mathematician who once wrote for the National Review until his writing revealed him to have racist views. Venker’s appearance was canceled following student backlash, and Derbyshire’s was canceled by the university president himself.

Lafargue applauds the university’s actions in both cases. He counters that allowing such speakers at the expense of college students does not prepare them for the real world. It implies that wanting to change those attitudes is wrong.

In the piece, Lafargue writes:

The real culprits — on campuses and in the real world — are the persistent effects of homophobia, income inequality, misogyny, poverty, racism, sexism, white supremacy and xenophobia. When students refuse to accept discrimination on college campuses, they’re learning important lessons about how to fight it everywhere.

Lafargue’s spot-on analysis got me thinking a little more about the role of college campuses in changing the future “real world” that exists after students earn their degrees. Instead of telling these students to toughen up, perhaps we should tell them these things instead:

Your words matter

Whether you are speaking out against injustice or belittling a peer, what you say makes an impact on the larger world. This goes for verbal words that come directly out of your mouth and those that are written – in emails, in texts, on social media, and more. Use those words to lift others up and to further causes that benefit society and beyond. You do not need to tolerate the words of another that offend you – ever. Know who you are and speak those truths into existence.

You don’t deserve discrimination

Hate, intolerance, and judgment are not just acceptable parts of life. They are wrong, plain and simple. Just because they exist, and have since the dawn of time, does not make them a part of your life that you must simply deal with and move past. You cannot change the way a particular person thinks or acts but always recognize that the fault is with them, not you. It’s not your job to adjust to a world that discriminates against you unfairly.

Progress is hard but worth it

The road to positive change is full of obstacles. Sometimes working towards that change is downright disheartening. This doesn’t mean to just accept the status quo. It means to work even harder to push back against the negative viewpoints and deep-rooted belief systems that are holding that progress back. It’s not an easy task to steer a ship a new direction, especially one that goes against the current, but it’s necessary to get to a new place. Never stop fighting the good fight. Eventually, with persistence and optimism, you will win.

Youth is not a disadvantage

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you that your lack of years lessens your importance. Your viewpoint matters just as much, if not more, than those whose opinions are more about hardened lines than true progress. Use your voice and all of that youthful passion for blazing new trails. Your inexperience in the ways of the world makes you an asset to it because your choices are based less on outside influence.

You are safe here

At least while you are on this campus, and a student at this school, we will have your best interest at heart. Nowhere in our university mission does it say that we strive to toughen you up for the real world by allowing you to be attacked, verbally or otherwise. You matter to us. You are protected. You are a priority.

We can’t coddle our college students by insisting they demand fairness. Let’s stand behind them as they continue the good work to progress past discrimination and backward thinking. Let’s believe together that the next iteration of the real world ushered in by our best and brightest will be an even better one than what we see today.

Why isn’t there enough diversity in college sports coaching?

College sports are incredibly popular.  People of all genders, races, and cultures are avid fans of sports like football and basketball—even at the college level. The diversity in college sports leadership does not reflect the diversity of the sports-viewing audience, or even of the athletes themselves.

Let’s specifically talk about college football for a moment. It is arguably the most popular sport at the nation’s colleges and universities. Bringing in over $90 million annually in revenue at the highest grossing University of Texas, it is no wonder that school leaders view the football team as less of an extracurricular activity and more of a moneymaker. The revenue that is generated by college football programs only represents a small piece of the overall financial benefits. Schools with strong athletic programs, particularly in the area of football, bring in more prospective students and have larger booster groups in place.

The Facts

Not many African-American head coaches at the college level have had the same success as Strong – mainly because many have not been given a chance. Of the 124 Division 1-A college football schools, only 15 had African American coaches in the 2012 season, according to an executive report by the Black Coaches Association. The Big Ten conference has seen zero black head coaches in the past ten years.

While head coaches are the most visible, support positions are severely underrepresented as well. Only 312 of 1,018 of college football assistant coaches are black, and only 31 of 255 of offensive and defensive coordinators are African American. Combined, black football coaches and support staff represent a measly 5 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision numbers.

At Division II and Division III schools, diversity is even worse. The Black Coaches Association reports that in the 2012 season, only nine schools of 113 in these two categories had head coaches of color. These numbers exclude historically black universities.

The Problem

Despite the thousands of black college football players in recent decades, barely a handful of them have been trusted with leading teams. These ex-players obviously understand the game and know what college athletes face on the field — so what gives?

Part of the problem is that schools are quick to dismiss coaches of all backgrounds when immediate improvement does not take place. The most recent high-profile example was the firing of Jon Embree by the University of Colorado in November. Floyd Keith of the Black Coaches Association called the firing a “disappointment” and wished that the school had given Embree a third season to prove himself. The school pointed to a 4-21 record over the course of two seasons as the reason for the firing but critics, like Keith, say that just two years is simply not enough time to turn a team around.

Many critics are also quick to point out that white coaches with bad numbers are often still considered a hot commodity by other schools when they are on the market, whereas black coaches have historically been given just one shot to prove their talent.

It is also important to note that a college football coach does not have the same responsibilities as an NFL one. Winning is valuable to the university, but so are other aspects like graduation rates of players and team conduct. Both play an indirect role in the revenue the school can generate in future years by attracting new students. With turnover rates of all college coaches rising every football season, a shift toward a “winning takes place on the field” mentality is evident.


The statistics are indisputable when it comes to underrepresentation of African Americans in all levels of college football coaching. With so much being said about this issue, not much in the way of problem solving has arisen. Colleges and universities would do well to take a cue from the NFL when it comes to hiring minority coaches. Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for all vacant head coaching positions and other executive football operation spots. After just three seasons, the Rooney Rule lead to an increase of 22 percent in the number of African-American head coaches in the NFL and those numbers rise every season. A similar rule only makes sense in a college athletic setting, especially since so many other aspects of higher education use affirmative action programs to bolster diversity and opportunity.

Another possible option is for schools to set up coaching mentorship programs for minority players that show leadership potential. An even better approach would be an NCAA-sanctioned program that seeks out talented players and gives them some exposure to coaching and maybe even a certificate program. These earmarked players could then begin working their way through the coaching ranks sooner and have a common knowledge base.

All changes need to be initiated by the NCAA, college athletics governing body. For a real dynamic shift to be felt across the board, every school needs to have the same diversity opportunities and rules as all the others. It is not enough to wish that more schools took a closer look at African Americans to fill head football coaching spots; an overarching game plan needs to be in place for true change to occur.

It’s not just college football that needs an overhaul, either

If there was ever a space to easily incorporate more diversity on college campuses, it’s in athletics. From physical trainers to marketing offices to head coaching spots, it’s a sub-area of the college landscape that benefits greatly from varied backgrounds and points of view.

Richard Lapchick of the University of Central Florida has published his Racial and Gender Report Card: College Sport since the early 2000s. Lapchick is the director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at UCF, and his latest version of the report evaluates racial and gender issues in college sports in 2014.

The latest report has the worst combined grades for racial and gender hiring numbers for college sports since the report was first issued.  Of the dismal stats, Lapchick said: “It was especially bad news that the opportunity for people of color among men’s and women’s basketball head coaches declined significantly.”

According to the numbers, and Lapchick himself, the state of diversity in college coaching is getting worse.

So how did we get here? Colleges are supposedly some of the most progressive places in the nation, and we continue to see problems with hiring practices when it comes to racial and gender diversity – in administrations, in tenure-track professorships, and in athletics. Perhaps the more important question, though, is what we should do now to improve the diversity in college athletics, especially coaching. Colleges can take a few immediate steps to try to remedy the situation, including to:

Take a cue from pro sports

While professional sports certainly have their share of diversity problems, they at least have some policies in place to turn that tide. The most visible of these is the Rooney Rule, a National Football League policy that makes it mandatory for all teams to interview minority applicants when there are head coaching or senior leadership positions open. There are certainly those who have pointed out, and rightly so, that the Rooney Rule isn’t having as big a positive impact as intended. Still, the mere awareness the publicity surrounding it has brought to the lack of diversity in the NFL, and other professional sports leagues, is worth noting. Colleges should do the same thing, and they should start by looking at the candidates already working in their programs or athlete alumni members.

Put players on coaching tracks

Leadership on college teams doesn’t just happen from above. There are players within the team ranks who rise above and exhibit traits worthy of leaders. These players may not always have the best stats or the most acclaim, but they are evident in the way they treat their teammates and strategize the game. When coaches see these players, they need to speak up and encourage these young players to consider coaching later on.

Start small

The head coaches get most of the spotlight when it comes to sports, professional and college, but there are plenty of other opportunities for diversity. A college that truly wants diversity at the highest levels of sports organizations needs to start by looking for opportunities to hire minorities and women in the lower spots too. By doing this, colleges can build a feeder system of diverse candidates who can aspire to the highest positions and will arrive at them more than qualified.

Hire more women

It’s common for men to be head coaches on women’s teams, but incredibly rare for women to coach men. At the very least, women should be coaching their sports. There are plenty of positions that women are more than capable of filling in the positions on the way to top spots, too. Rather than writing off college sports as too tough or “manly” for women, the culture surrounding it needs to shift to view the input of women as equally valuable as their male counterparts.

Diversity in college coaching won’t just happen on its own. It will take targeted initiatives from individual colleges and universities and the entire college athletic system as a whole. That starts with recognition of a problem and the right leadership to step up and vow to better the situation.


Let’s make college truly welcoming for everyone

In an increasingly diverse society, it is best for us as Americans to make sure that we are all getting access to the same opportunities. As educators, keeping an eye out for what equality looks like on college campuses is also a good idea, especially for those of us who work or plan to work at a college or university.

Many colleges claim to value diversity and inclusion. I hope that some of them will put their money where their mouth is and move toward solutions (such as those I have suggested) to promote a great experience for those who attend or work in a college.

The Cost of College: What happens when college costs spin out of control?

The rising cost of college is causing long-term problems for this generation of graduates. Now that Americans are beginning to recognize the damage student loans are doing, will the government focus on making college more affordable? Or is this just the way things are?

According to a new Gallup-Lumina Foundation poll, many Americans feel that college is no longer affordable. Just 17 percent of white Americans polled believe that “education beyond high school is affordable to anyone in this country who needs it” and only 19 percent of black people polled believe the same.

Hispanics are far more optimistic in their view of college affordability. By way of the Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of Hispanics polled responded that college is affordable to those who live in America.

Separated into three categories of white, black, and Hispanic, the gulf between how Hispanics feel about the cost of higher education compared to whites and blacks is staggering. That may mesh with how some view the outlook and direction of the country.

But this study also mentions the rising cost of tuition and the copious amount of debt that students are saddled with upon exiting college. According to Gallup, tuition at a “public four-year college has increased by more than 250% over the past three decades.”

That’s likely why many students carry an average of $30,000 in student loan debt and why some in the federal government want to extinguish student loan debt when filing for bankruptcy.

This new study is another in a long line of studies that show just how un-affordable higher education has become for some. With the rising cost of tuition and student fees, many students are being priced out of the ability to attain a college degree.

Even Senator Elizabeth Warren called out the federal government for its student loan problem. She said that outstanding student loan debt needs to be refinanced and that “college affordability and student debt” are issues that need to be included in the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act.

The cost is turning off some students as they are afraid of amassing thousands of dollars in debt and ruining their financial future. If anything, this shows just how dire the situation has become and why the federal government needs to act on fixing the problem.

Just how bad is this college debt problem, anyway?

Consider this. In the fall of 2012, 66 percent of high school graduates from that year were enrolled in college, and that number does not include students that waited longer to enroll or non-traditional adult students.

Currently, there is a call for a more affordable college education, which makes sense. It comes on the heels of a recession that undercut the value of a college education. Even those with a college degree were not immune to the financial hit that the economy took and those still paying off their student loans were often left without the very job they had always assumed would pay off their educational debts.

A study by the Urban Institute found that almost 300,000 Americans with master’s degrees were on public relief, along with 30,000 with doctorates. The average debt of a college graduate is $35,200 and that can take decades to pay off.

For black students, this issue can be even worse. A Gallup poll found that in the last 14 years, around half of black college students graduated with student loan debt exceeding $25,000. This is compared to 35 percent of white students had loan debt that high.

Often the only way for black students to afford a college education is by taking on these loans. Four out of five black students take student loans to attend college and typically have nearly $4,000 more student loan debt compared to white students, according to a 2013 report by The Center for American Progress.

There is deep inequality here in the U.S. In 2013, the median income for black households was $34,600, and the poverty rate is 27%, nearly three times that of white Americans.

Furthermore, college students with high debt tend to suffer long-term health issues

According to a new study via Gallup.com, college graduates “who took on the highest amounts of student debt, $50,000 or more, are less likely than their fellow graduates who did not borrow for college to be thriving in four of five elements of well-being: purpose, financial, community, and physical.”

The survey has an area of 25-years as Gallup only polled individuals who graduated college between 1990-2014. What the study found is that graduates who are burdened with $50,000 or more in student loan debt may struggle to repay their loans, which in turn has causes them to delay making large purchases, e.g. buying a new home.

Those saddled with debt are unable to save as much as their counterparts who do not have as much debt or none at all, and Gallup’s “thriving gap,” percentages between those with $50,000 in debt less the percentage of student’s without it, shows an 11 point percentage spread between the two parties.

The study also found that more recent college graduates seem to be performing worse than those who graduated before 2000. Those who obtained a college degree between the years of 1990-1999 are doing better socially, physically, and in purpose.

Student loan debt now outweighs credit card debt and has surpassed $1 trillion. With wage growth still stagnant and many individuals going without full employment, this will mean more health issues and many former graduates with void savings accounts as well.

Even the coveted private school does not pay off right away

Ivy League schools are prestigious, with many students vying for acceptance and few earning a spot as an attendee. However, for people seeking the cushiest early-career salaries, the Ivy Leagues aren’t paying off instantly.

Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Columbia don’t make it into the top 30 universities for starting salaries. The University of Chicago, a tie for fourth, doesn’t make the top 200.

The PayScale survey tells us that Princeton, the highest performing Ivy League school offers its graduates a median starting salary of $60,000 – earning is the 34th highest in the country.

And spending a year’s worth of salary for one year of higher education at Harvard does not always lead to great career results.

According to U.S. News and World Report, a recent Brookings Study shows that “other schools may either not cost as much and yield a similar salary and success of loan repayment, or they may cost about the same but generate higher earnings potential.”

On the other hand, going to an elite military or tech school might just be your best bet. For example, graduates of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis earn a median annual salary of over $80,000 over their first five years post-graduation, earning the school the top number of surveyed schools.

Now granted, the nation’s traditionally elite schools distinguish themselves with a salary growth near graduates’ mid-career. Graduates from Ivy League and like schools see their pay jump significantly when they are more than ten years past graduation. But the quick payoff that many students expect after graduating from Harvard or Yale may not happen.

On the flip side, there are options today, especially with online courses. With less red tape than the traditional college format, online students can earn credits while still working full time, maintaining families and dealing with illnesses. Whether students take just one course remotely or obtain an entire degree, they can take on the demands of college life more readily.

Each year online learning initiatives becomes less of a fringe movement and more of an incorporated and accepted, form of education. More than 6.7 million people took at least one online class in the fall of 2011, and 32 percent of college students now take at least one online course during their matriculation. It is even becoming commonplace for high schools to require all students to take an online class before graduation as a way to prep them for the “real world” of secondary education.

The flexibility and convenience of online learning are well known but what is not as readily talked about is the way distance education promotes diversity of the college population. With less red tape than the traditional college format, online students can earn credits while still working full time, maintaining families and dealing with illnesses. Whether students take just one course remotely or obtain an entire degree, they can take on the demands of college life more readily – leading to a student population with more variety.

The Babson Survey Research Group recently revealed that while online college student enrollment is on the rise, traditional colleges and universities saw their first drop in enrollment in the ten years the survey has been conducted. This drop is small – less than a tenth of one percent – but its significance is big. A trend toward the educational equality of online curriculum is being realized by students, institutions, and employers across the board. The benefits of a college education through quality online initiatives are now becoming more accessible to students that simply cannot commit to the constraints of a traditional campus setting.

A controversial experiment that could lead the way to even more college credit accessibility is MOOCs or massive open online courses. As the name implies, these classes are offered to the general public at a low cost, or no cost, in the hopes of earning their students college credit. California-based online course provider Coursera recently had five of its offerings evaluated by the American Council on Education for college credit validity. Four of the courses were recommended for college credit by ACE, and one was endorsed for vocational credit, providing student work verification through a strict proctoring process.

These credits are not earned through community colleges or online-institutions; Duke University, the University of California at Irvine and the University of Pennsylvania are on Coursera’s list of places the courses will earn credit for students that pay a nominal fee. Students that obtain these credits through Coursera can approach any higher education institution and seek their inclusion in a degree program, but the final discretion is up to the particular school.

MOCCs are certainly in an infancy stage and do not provide a “sure thing” yet for students that participate. In the Babson survey mentioned earlier, only 2.6 percent of schools offer a MOOC, but an additional 9.4 percent are building a MOCC plan. The potential for further diversity and equality in education through MOCCs is certainly on the horizon. This form of online learning means that students do not have to commit to an entire course of study to obtain credits or even commit to a particular institution upfront.

MOOCs will further eliminate the socio-economic barriers that keep promising students from seeking out college credits. Students are given more flexibility in scheduling at an affordable price. Though the MOOC trend has its dissenters, I believe it will win over even the most skeptical and increase accessibility for all people that seek higher education. After all, at one time the mention of online courses raised a few eyebrows in the educational community and look how far the concept has come.

Plus, not everyone is paying full price for a college education. In fact, a vast majority are paying below the advertised price.

By way of NPR.org, the National Association of College and University Business Officers conducted a study “of tuition discounts at private, nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities.”

The information released in the survey suggests that all colleges that were surveyed offered some sort of discounts to its students.

“They estimate 89 percent of first-time, full-year freshmen received some discount in 2014-2015. Of those students, the average grant they received is estimated to cover 54.3 percent of tuition and fees.”

That’s at least half off of student fees and maybe tuition

Still–even with the steep discounts, it’s not enough to curb the rising rate of students who carry too much debt. At least this survey doesn’t go into detail as to how these discounts may offset the full cost of college or how it impacts the load of debt that students carry post-graduation.

While the study is a brief overture into how some schools attend to the full cost of college, it also shows just how expensive some schools are if nearly 90 percent of freshmen can utilize discounts. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a college system that was just plain affordable for all students, without the trappings of all these discounts and needing to spend so much time tracking down the money to attend?

Who wants to make college affordable again?

As it stands, things may not be looking good

According to a study, there is a correlation between the rising cost of Medicaid and declined spending on higher education. Created by Moody’s Analytics for The National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education, the study suggests that state budgets will constrict spending on higher education because of the high cost of Medicaid.

Because money from the Affordable Care Act will start to slow by 2020, many states will have to allocate more funds for Medicaid, which in turn will cause a decrease in discretionary spending.

So, many states that are struggling with budget deficits or have deeply cut funding for higher education will likely face more financial issues.

The study portends that Medicaid will outrun state revenues. If that potential trend holds, then higher education truly is in trouble.

To further foreshadow the problem, higher education spending is only expected to grow by as little as four percent each year. Any growth may look good on the surface, but that type of spending will likely cause many colleges and universities to reshuffle their spending priorities.

Louisiana’s budget crisis led Governor Bobby Jindal to look at cutting a record $600 million from higher education. Because of the loss of funding, Louisiana State University (LSU) planned to file for academic bankruptcy. That will mean that LSU will be forced to raise tuition and student fees, likely pricing some students out of attending the university.

Likely more states that face this crisis of funding will attempt to raise revenues and cut higher ed funding. Unfortunately, education funding is usually the first to get cut when state funding gets tight. Because this issue isn’t supposed to shock state budgets for at least another five years, hopefully, states will take precautions now to prepare for the issues down the road.

Here’s who’s talking about solutions

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio spoke about his efforts in his home state of Florida, and perhaps on a federal level, to make college attendance a shared cost. Rubio is no stranger to college debt. When he arrived at the U.S. Senate, he still had $100,000 in outstanding student loans. Rubio has been upfront about his modest upbringing and also the power his education gave him but he has acknowledged that the cost is too high. The basics of his college plan would allow private investors to pay for the tuition of college students in exchange for a portion of their earnings later on. This would mean the students acquired no traditional debt and would not start out their careers in the hole – at least not in a typical way.

While I like the out-of-the-box thinking of this plan, it raises more questions than answers. At least when a student takes out a federally-backed loan or even a private one that meets federal regulations, there is some protection for the student. I worry that allowing too many private investors in on the college lending game could mean more financial pressure on the borrowers. And what happens if a student finds him or herself unemployed for a long period of time? Or unable to work due to injury? These are all issues that would certainly be addressed before legislation was drafted and approved but there are already some red flags that pop up in this hands-off government approach to college debt reform.

Another college payment idea that is arising across the country is a state-run repayment program that is similar to Rubio’s private investor one. Already in Oregon the Pay It Forward program has been approved (though not yet enacted) that will give students their public college education upfront, free of cost, in exchange for paying the state a portion of their earnings post-college. Supporters bill it as a “debt free” alternative to a college education, but like Rubio’s plan there is still money owed at the end of the college term that does impact actual earnings. It will be interesting to keep an eye on Oregon in the coming years to see how the program impacts the first groups of students who take advantage of it.

What if a public college education was completely free, though? That’s the approach Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam wants to take when it comes to the state’s community colleges. At his State of the State address, he called for free tuition at Tennessee’s community colleges to improve the state’s reputation as one of the least educated. Haslam proposed that the money to pay for it come from the state’s lottery earnings that would be placed in a $300 million endowment fund. While a short-term solution, I’m not sure that this is a sustainable payment plan. But if even one class of students in the state can take advantage of it, that may make a huge positive impact on Tennessee’s long-term economic outlook.

And of course, President Obama has some of his solutions as well. For example, during his 2015 State of the Union address, he laid out proposals to revamp the tax code by raising taxes and fees on the wealthiest Americans and largest financial institutes. The additional money from these taxes would be used to pay for free tuition for two years of community college.

Obama’s plan would give many people in America the opportunity to receive an education– something that many people in our country have always wanted, but could never afford.  The President points out that more people will have the ability to obtain a degree, and we will also see a more competitive nation with a stronger middle-class economy.

In his proposal for free tuition, Obama highlights that students would need to maintain a 2.5 GPA, attend at least half time and be on track to graduate on time. The proposal would not be exclusive to recent high school graduates.

The President estimates the cost of the free tuition program at $6 billion a year

I think community colleges are the key to an affordable education, especially when paired with 4-year college initiatives. If community college becomes more affordable, I think that some students may not have to work full-time as they take classes so that they could quicken the pace of their attendance.

Here are some other ways that the President has increased access to college education:

Enforcement of the DREAM Act. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act will an estimated 2.1 million young people in the U.S. with access to an education and amnesty from deportation. While Obama’s administration has stressed the ethical points of this act, rightfully so, it offers may economic benefits for America as well.

The Center for American Progress estimates that the DREAM Act will create 1.4 million new jobs by the year 2030 and that it will infuse some $329 billion into the U.S. economy.

Pell Grant Increases. The President has also pledged to double the amount of funding available in the form of Pell Grants over the next three years. Unlike student loans, Pell Grants do not need to be repaid. For the 2011–2012 school year, the maximum award amount was $5,550.
While a Pell Grant cannot cover all of the college costs, it goes a long way towards covering in-state tuition or community college courses. All students can apply for the program, too, and students receive aid awards based on financial need and cost of attendance.

By 2017, the maximum amount awarded to students is expected to rise to $5,975. By 2021, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 820,000 more Pell Grant awards will also be available. The money will come, in part, from restructuring to the distribution of federal student loans. By implementing a direct student loan program, instead of a bank-subsidized one, $68 billion will also be saved by the year 2020.

Higher College Tax Credits. The Obama-Biden administration plans to triple the current tax credits available to students and parents of students paying college expenses, too. The American Opportunity Tax Credit gives a $2,500 tax credit maximum per student and students can claim it for four years.

According to the IRS, up to 40 percent of the credit is refundable, up to $1,000, to people that file even if no taxes are owed. In addition to courses and fees, the new tax credit also covers related costs like books, supplies, and required class materials.

Income-Based Loan Repayment. President Obama has often said that he believes that paying for college should not overwhelm graduates. As a reflection of this, he has pledged to expand income-based repayment options to keep the bills from college from becoming unmanageable. Around two-thirds of college students have a debt of over $23,000 upon graduation. This can be especially difficult for students that want to enter public service jobs and those who face unexpected financial hardships like unemployment or serious illness.

Beginning in 2014, students can limit payments to 10 percent of income – a reduction from 15 percent in the previous law – which means a reduction of $110 per month for unmarried borrowers that owe $20,000 and make $30,000 per year. An estimated 1 million borrowers will be positively impacted by this change in repayment options. Also, borrowers that make monthly payments will be allowed debt forgiveness after 20 years. Public service workers like nurses, teachers, and military employees will receive debt forgiveness after just ten years.

Many Americans wish they could pursue their dream of a college education, but they just do not have the means to follow through with their plans. I appreciate Obama’s focus on the future of America’s children, inclusion and equality, and college affordability.

But as much as the President has done to make college affordable, here’s another big idea to transform the state of college affordability today: a free college education.

Free college: the ultimate solution?

Yes, free college

This is something that presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders hopes to accomplish, in addition to easing the student loan burden that many college graduates carry now.

Currently, student loans are thought of as the cost of doing business. But costs are rising in an out of control manner, and each class that finishes college graduates deeper and deeper in the hole. According to the Boston Globe by way of commondreams.org, the class of 2015 will carry a student loan debt of $56 billion and is “the most indebted class in history.”

What if there was no cost to obtain a college education and it was viewed as a basic right, much like the K-12 public school system? It seems that the knee-jerk response is to claim that the nation can’t afford it. The trillion-dollar college education industry, coupled with the lending companies that “help” finance these endeavors, would feasibly go under if students did not have to find, earn or borrow the tens of thousands necessary to prove they care about their career.

Perhaps that’s true. But how would the economy as a whole look if college student debt disappeared? Instead of taking the first, low-paying job that came along to desperately find the cash to start repaying loans, maybe students would hold out for the perfect job where their talents and education could be best utilized. Instead of the nearly 22 million young adults living at home with their parents, maybe those kids would invest in their housing and start contributing to that industry faster. Parents who save every penny to pay for college would feasibly have more cash to put back into other aspects of the economy, strengthening whatever industries they touched.

When the facts are examined, it seems that the only ones truly benefitting from the current higher education model are the institutions themselves and the companies that support lending. In the second quarter of this year, private lender Sallie Mae reported $543 million in net income. In 2013 alone, Sallie Mae has spent over $1.2 million lobbying against legislation meant to relieve some of the college debt strain. Much like the skyrocketing healthcare industry costs over the past two decades, colleges and lenders have been left to their own devices with improper regulations.

The result is the “soaring college costs” we hear so much about today. According to the College Board in 1992 one year of college at a public four-year institution cost around $7,500 in today’s dollars. Now that cost is $10,000 higher. Private nonprofits cost around $17,000 in 1992; today the cost is nearly $24,000.  The cost of college is a runaway train at this point. College costs have risen faster than the inflation rate for decades.

While an economy hindrance, the high price tag of a college education has very little resistance when observing the nation’s population as a whole. Colleges and lending companies have, for the most part, gotten “a pass” because the pursuit of knowledge is deemed a worthy one where the price should never be considered an issue. Under the guise of a better-educated workforce, colleges and lenders have been able to get away with more than any other industry providing a basic, American service. What would the reaction be if utility costs rose that quickly, or the price of a gallon of milk?

For a college education to have the intended impact on the individual and society as a whole, it needs to be affordable – or completely free. It is a basic American right.

Will the Costs of College Cause an Economic Disaster?

Higher education is potentially one of the best tools for social mobility in America. However, as it is set up now, it may only help the rich get richer. Why? Well, college is a great way for lower-income people to improve their economic situation—but they need to be able to afford it first.

Is college worth it for students who already start out at a disadvantage?  Let’s look at what students, especially from low-income areas, are up against when they choose post-secondary education today.

Is the future of higher education doomed?

In April 2014, education, corporate and philanthropic leaders from around the world who met in Essex, NY at a two-day Summit believed that many colleges will be unrecognizable in another decade and that unless millions more low-income students attain college degrees we face a global economic crisis.

Participating in the Summit were 60 individuals from China, Ireland, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, France and the United States representing a dozen colleges and universities, eight foundations, six corporations and 15 secondary schools, including executives from Google, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GE Foundation, Ernst & Young, University of Michigan, Harvard, Trinity College Dublin, Beijing Normal University, among others.

“Our outstanding participants included five lead speakers who framed the key issues surrounding college 2025. These speakers are futurists, experts in teaching and learning, recognized globally. We even had a 10-time Oscar winner,” said Rick Dalton, president and CEO of College For Every Student, the organization that sponsored the Summit with Trinity College Dublin.

Emerging Technology Trends

Dr. Nicholas Haan, a futurist from Singularity University in California, said, “We must leverage the exponential technology trends and the disruption that’s upon us to solve today’s inequalities and inefficiencies in education.”

Haan provided examples of the technology trends that will affect education in the near future, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics as well as Digital Manufacturing. He urged attendees to view challenges as problems that can be solved. “We need to throw out our old thinking and prepare ourselves for a world that is collaborative, ongoing and personalized.”

Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate, film producer, educationalist and Labour peer (UK), told summit participants, “Today’s students are embarking on a journey with no map. Today’s teachers are working in a scenario that has never been seen before – they are doing a job no one has ever been asked to do. They are becoming digital learners, interested in creating, sharing and delivering content with their students.”

Revolutionizing the Engine of Education

Paul Reville, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and current professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, said the “engine of education” should be re-configured, “We need to tackle the problem of differentiation, extend the entitlement of education and create a braided system that addresses – and includes – the challenges of social, physical and mental health services. A solution that focuses on instruction alone, simply will not work.”

Cliona Hannon, Director of Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) at Trinity College Dublin, said, “We are talking about developing innovative opportunities for low-income students. We need the talent of all young people engaged in civic society.”

The Recruiting Revolution

Dr. William Fitzsimmons, Harvard College’s Dean of Admissions, discussing the range of strategies and programs Harvard is undertaking to recruit low-income students and to support them once they’re enrolled, emphasizing “this is a human rights issue – it’s an outrage to waste the talent of these young people.”

From Harvard’s continued work on strengthening their financial aid structure, to actively recruiting low-income students in cities across the country, to creating and implementing student support programs, Fitzsimmons concluded “we can’t just bring students in and hope it works – it’s imperative we provide substantial support throughout.”

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of the Office of Fair Access in the UK, shared insights on his country’s approach to making fair access and participation a reality through its development of comprehensive access agreements.

Solutions to the Challenges

Leaders of the Summit will produce a white paper that delivers strategies to increase access and support for low-income students for College 2025.

“We know the devastating price of inequality, and we gathered to do something about it. There’s a better world out there for our children. A college degree is still the best path to a world of opportunity,” said Dalton of CFES.

Is college only for the elite?

Ironically, those who need to enter this “world of opportunity” most are least able to.

According to a report via the Times Higher Education, affluent children have a nearly 60 percent chance of “entering a highly selective university, compared with 27 percent for the less privileged group. The prospects of not entering any university were 8 percent and 27 percent, respectively.”

While this news isn’t necessarily new or surprising, it does continue to reaffirm a theory that higher education in the United States is not the model of equality that it really should be.

Student loan debt is a hot button issue now because it recently passed credit card and auto loan debt as the second-largest type of debt that Americans hold. Couple that news regarding debt to this report that suggests how tough it may be for less affluent children to enter America’s top colleges and it reveals flaws in our higher education systems.

The report also shows that no matter how higher education is structured in America and other countries, “affluent families will do whatever it takes to seek out qualitative advantages within the system that they face.”

In essence, rich kids still have a leg up. While this is not surprising, it is disheartening in a country that claims to be a land of equal opportunities.

As I have written about on my site, reorganizing how higher education impacts children who come from lesser backgrounds is paramount. Tuition growth will have to be restricted, the government will have to completely restructure Pell Grants and student loans, and America’s economy will have to continue to improve for these kids to have a chance to succeed.

Why the poor might not have access to a college education

It’s well-known how expensive post-secondary education is today. What is not as well-known is why.

Part of this is a lack of state investment in colleges and universities in recent years.

Only two states in the country are spending as much per student on higher ed funding as they did pre-recession, according to a report released by Young Invincibles. The nonprofit millennial advocacy group is pushing for debt-free higher ed funding and increased state involvement in helping young people obtain college degrees.

Between 2008-2014, North Dakota and Alaska were the only states to increase higher education spending, by 38 percent and 6 percent respectively. During this period every other state cut higher education funding, on average by 21 percent per student.

Why hasn’t higher education funding bounced back?

As the economy recovers, funding at the state level for colleges and universities has not bounced back. The reasons for these cutbacks vary based on state revenues, budget restrictions, and other factors. It seems that the decrease in investment is easier for policymakers to pass, as constituents are more likely to accept these types of cuts, versus more contentious moves like tax increases.

Though individuals may not overwhelmingly object to higher education budget cuts, they should. A direct impact can be seen in a family’s budget when these types of cuts are made. As states were decreasing their higher education funding, tuition and fees rose by 28 percent on average for two-year and four-year public universities, between 2008-2014. Tom Allison, Young Invincibles’ deputy director and author of the report tells MarketWatch, “The skyrocketing student debt we see is a symptom of a disease, and the disease we see is state disinvestment from higher education.”

The report clearly is not the first to draw a connection between states’ decreased investment in higher education and increasing tuition and growing student debt. However, Allison tells MarketWatch that arming residents with this type of information and how it directly affects their pocketbooks may encourage students, parents, and lawmakers to fight for better funding for higher education institutions.

Do students benefit from a “stable” higher education industry?

You might think that higher education is in trouble with everything that is going on within the industry. But surprisingly, the higher education industry is doing just fine.

According to Washingtonpost.com, Moody’s has officially upgraded the higher education industry to stable from negative.

“[T]he firm predicted that higher education will stabilize, for the first time post-recession, allowing more predictability in operating budgets. They upgraded the whole sector to “stable.””

The article lightly details why the rating was elevated and if it is sustainable.

Due to rising revenue because of growth in tuition and federal research funding, the industry has experienced stability, which is something higher education hasn’t been accustomed to since the start of Obama’s second term.

But that news isn’t necessarily grand for students. Tuition growth may be great for the industry as a whole because it decreases volatility, but rising college costs due to tuition increases have priced many students out of higher education.

Hopefully, the stability of the industry will lead to a reduction in how often colleges and universities are forced to raise tuition due to budget cuts and low funding from state legislatures.

But overall, this is good news. When higher education had a negative outlook, it was bad for all involved. An uptick in that outlook will surely help this arena in remaining stable and improving its standing in the coming years.

Answering the hard question: is college worth it anymore?

With all these factors that may benefit higher education, the government, the student loan industry, and everyone who is not a college student, it’s worth asking whether college is even worth going to anymore.

Many Americans definitely do not think so, and there is a lot of merit to that line of thought.

But the Obama Administration’s College Scorecard has a clearer, if counter-intuitive, insight.

The Obama Administration’s College Scorecard is kind of the gift that continues to give. It gives prospective students, and their parents, the ability to compare schools without having to fully visit too many colleges.

Another fantastic win from the scorecard is that we are provided with an idea of how well students do financially after they’ve graduated.

According to an article via Hamptonroads.com, the scorecard “tracks salaries ten years after the freshman year.” The good news? Student salaries used for the purpose of the article range from $34,000 to $56,000. The bad news? Salaries all depend on a student’s major.

But that’s not bad news as someone with a degree in finance is likely to make more than a student who chooses a career path in journalism.

The economy also plays a major role in determining one’s salary. Some companies constrict employment, increase employee production, and fail to produce salary increases because of how tight its bottom line becomes due to the state of the economy.

Even with those deciding factors, college graduates still make more than that of those with just high school diplomas. Most companies still prefer a college graduate compared to someone who just has a G.E.D. or high school diploma. A college degree won’t guarantee that you are wealthy, but it should help you live a more comfortable life than if you didn’t have it at all. That statistic isn’t likely to change anytime soon, and students should still strive for a college education to maximize their lifetime earning potential.

Now if we could just get the pursuit of those college degrees to be a little more affordable in the first place, we’d have something.

There are many ways to get there. Here are just a few suggestions.

Free college: a basic right or a privilege we can’t afford?

Earning a college education is something that is a double-edged sword for the nation’s youngest adults and some of their parents too. Society dictates that some form of secondary education is an absolute must for lifetime success but the cost associated with earning those credentials is debilitating. The Washington Post reports that the average college student will graduate with $25,000 in debt. With over $1 trillion in outstanding loans, student debt outweighs credit card debt and is exempt from bankruptcy protection.

Some may say this is just the cost of doing business and that a few years (or decades) of repaying student loans is worth the cost in the long run. If a person truly values his future, repaying loans and interest rates are just part of proving his dedication. To each his own, and other related monikers.

But what if that mentality were flipped? What if there was no cost to obtain a college education and it was viewed as a basic right, much like the K-12 public school system? With proponents such as 2016 Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, the conversation about free college is finally opening up in a major way.

It seems that the knee-jerk response is to claim that the nation can’t afford it. The trillion-dollar college education industry, coupled with the lending companies that “help” finance these endeavors, would feasibly go under if students did not have to find, earn or borrow the tens of thousands necessary to prove they care about their career.

Perhaps that’s true. But how would the economy as a whole look if college student debt disappeared? Instead of taking the first, low-paying job that came along to desperately find the cash to start repaying loans, maybe students would hold out for the perfect job where their talents and education could be best utilized. Instead of the nearly 22 million young adults living at home with their parents, maybe those kids would invest in their housing and start contributing to that industry faster. Parents who save every penny to pay for college would feasibly have more cash to put back into other aspects of the economy, strengthening whatever industries they touched.

When the facts are examined, it seems that the only ones truly benefitting from the current higher education model are the institutions themselves and the companies that support lending. In the second quarter of this year, private lender Sallie Mae reported $543 million in net income. In 2013 alone, Sallie Mae has spent over $1.2 million lobbying against legislation meant to relieve some of the college debt strain. Much like the skyrocketing healthcare industry costs over the past two decades, colleges and lenders have been left to their own devices with improper regulations.

The result is the “soaring college costs” we hear so much about today. According to the College Board in 1992 one year of college at a public four-year institution cost around $7,500 in today’s dollars. Now that cost is $10,000 higher. Private nonprofits cost around $17,000 in 1992; today the cost is nearly $24,000.  The cost of college is a runaway train at this point. College costs have risen faster than the inflation rate for decades.

While an economy hindrance, the high price tag of a college education has very little resistance when observing the nation’s population as a whole. Colleges and lending companies have, for the most part, gotten “a pass” because the pursuit of knowledge is deemed a worthy one where the price should never be considered an issue. Under the guise of a better-educated workforce, colleges and lenders have been able to get away with more than any other industry providing a basic, American service. What would the reaction be if utility costs rose that quickly, or the price of a gallon of milk?

For a college education to have the intended impact on the individual and society as a whole, it needs to be affordable – or completely free. It is a basic American right.

What if college can’t be free?

Perhaps a free college education is out of reach for America right now. However, an affordable one certainly shouldn’t be. At least, this is the hope of Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Last year, she announced a plan that will tackle issues related to higher education.

“New College Compact” aims to tame the cost associated with attaining a college degree. She’s also looking to put a leash on student loan debt.

According to Brookings.edu, Clinton’s plan would make community colleges free.

“It vows to make enrollment at community colleges free and affordable without loans at four-year public institutions if students contribute the equivalent of wages from a 10-hour per-week job and families make the contribution prescribed by the aid eligibility formulas.”

Clinton is facing stiff competition from Bernie Sanders and will likely have to hold off a strong charge from Martin O’Malley. So releasing a progressive higher education plan surely works in her favor until it doesn’t.

While the plan sounds good on the surface, Clinton will have to tighten a few corners. HBCUs have serious concern over how free community college will impact their enrollment and financial aid.

She wants to reduce interest rates on student loans, but a Brookings study found that many students who reside in higher tax brackets hold a lot of the debt associated with student loans.

“Our prior analysis indicates that higher-income households hold a disproportionate share of student loan debt. The richest 25 percent of families hold 40 percent of the student loans, and would, therefore, receive roughly 40 percent of the benefits of a proposal that allowed all loan debt to be refinanced at lower rates.”

Still–even with that nugget of information, many low-income students who face high repayments or garnishment due to default would likely benefit from the proposal.

What would happen if schools stopped charging tuition?

Political activist Ralph Nader decided to run for president on the premise of being a consumer advocate and one who fights against keeping America from turning into an exclusive meritocracy.

It’s also why he wants his former school to do away with tuition

Nader graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1958 with a bachelor of law and thinks that the school isn’t doing enough to keep costs for student low.

Along with other activists, Nader is calling for Harvard University to use its endowment to eradicate tuition fees.

Boasting the largest endowment in the nation, Harvard has a fund of $36 billion and raised over $1 billion in 2015.

Simply put, Harvard isn’t hurting for dollars

Tapping into that income will not harm Harvard’s ability to fund other projects, like new buildings and paying for other fees, but it may set a precedent that other schools will be forced to follow.

Because Harvard’s endowment is so big–again, largest in the nation–it has the privilege that other schools may not harness.

Some in Congress are at least exploring the idea of potentially forcing some schools to use money from endowments towards tuition fees. The issue this presents is that many who decide to give to a school’s endowment usually do so for a certain cause or matter.

Former Harvard Business School student John Paulson gave the Harvard University School of Engineering and Applied Science a gift of $400 million in 2015. That money may be designated strictly for use at that school.

It’s also worth noting that these endowments are tax exempt and the policy may allow for schools like Harvard to run up the score.

Removing that exemption may not hurt Harvard, but it would damage other schools. For example, Grambling State University’s (GSU) endowment is only $4.5 million, and the school would be severely hurt if that money was taxed. GSU also has an alumni base that isn’t as financially strong as Harvard.

For the sake of rich and powerful schools, doing away with tuition fees would certainly help its students. But that rule should likely only apply to schools that can afford it, which means that no law or policy may be created to force schools to do so.

Are Income Share Agreements another option for college affordability?

What are Income Share Agreements (ISA)?

These will help students who take out loans to attain a degree that may be deemed worthless in the workplace. Often, they are saddled with massive amounts of debt that they are unable to pay back.

This causes many to default on their loans and fall down an income hole that detaches them from the ability to obtain credit to purchase a home, vehicle, etc…

Because it’s tough to section these students off–those who may be in danger of gaining a degree that’s economically barren–some may be eligible to take out an ISA loan.

These loans allow the student to pay back the cost of their degree regarding its value. So if one student has a degree that has little to no worth, he or she will have a small amount, if any, to repay.

Inversely, if a student’s degree turns out to be of much value, then that student will pay back more.

Ostensibly this seems like a good deal for students. It’s affordable, colleges and universities seem open to it, and Congress is exploring ways to create a regulatory environment for ISAs.

Hopefully, once properly researched and vetted, the application of these loans are a win for students as the cost of tuition and school fees continue to rise.

How to prevent an economic crisis by making college affordable again

Let’s be clear—there are many ways to peel a banana. Since there are many reasons higher education costs have skyrocketed over the past few decades, there are many solutions we can engage to manage these costs and lessen the burden on students.  We can make college totally free, or we can look for various ways to make college less expensive.

One thing seems to clear, though: students who are lower-income need to be able to find their way up…and it is becoming more and more difficult to do so. These days, a college degree is more necessary than ever. We need to make college cheaper and more accessible to lower-income students if we want a vibrant future for our economy.

How For-Profit Colleges Lost Their Groove

Due to leaving their graduates with high debt loads, for-profit colleges are becoming the target of scrutiny from the federal government. But is this scrutiny justified?

Like many proponents of non-traditional pathways to college, Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate for 2016, wants to expand the role that for-profit schools have in higher education.

According to USA Today, Rubio wrote an editorial for the National Review where he details why he believes the nation is better off if the education department changes the rules of accreditation for for-profit schools.

“These innovative providers cannot compete with the cartel of existing brick-and-mortar colleges and universities that dominate the accreditation process and shields our higher-education system from reform, competition, and accountability.”

Rubio is referring to how tough it is for for-profit colleges to attain accreditation. In changing the process, Rubio believes that it would allow for more for-profit schools to offer vocational training.

In doing so, far more Americans will be ready to attain gainful employment. In essence, Rubio wants “more welders and fewer philosophers.”

There’s a slight problem with Rubio’s argument. He’s receiving donations from the for-profit education industry. It’s not much as Rubio has taken in about $24,000 since 2014 according to opensecrets.org.

While the totals aren’t high, it supports the idea that Rubio only has this idea to appease a portion of his donation base.

But in addition to that, allowing more for-profit schools into the world of education without dealing with the problems that many have caused is not the best idea.

After all, the United States Education Department has been busy putting out their fires.

Rubio is right that students may need greater access to vocational institutions, but for-profit colleges may not be the best way to go. Here’s why.

For-Profit Colleges: Centers of Financial Ruin?

Unfortunately for those students looking for an affordable alternative to brick-and-mortar schools, online higher education options aren’t necessarily cheaper than the traditional brick-and-mortar schools, according to U.S. News and World Report,

The report attempts to “debunk” the myths surrounding the theory that online education may be a cheaper option for some students.

According to usnews.com, tuition costs for online courses, or degrees in some cases, are more expensive due to technology and faculty costs.

“Even if tuition for an online program looks appealingly low, students should be sure to look into whether they will be paying any additional fees, says Vickie Cook, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research, and Service at the University of Illinois—Springfield.”

Depending on the type of school the student chooses, the cost of attending varies. Selecting a private higher education institution that offers online programs will certainly trend higher than a public university with controlled costs.

Most importantly, many for-profit schools offer online programs. The costs associated with these programs and schools will sometimes rival that of some of the country’s best schools.

In fact, according to a new report by the Brookings Institute, a good chunk of student loan debt is held by students who attend for-profit institutions.

“The so-called student loan crisis in the U.S. is largely concentrated among non-traditional borrowers attending for-profit schools and other non-selective institutions, who have relatively weak educational outcomes and difficulty finding jobs after starting to repay their loans.”

Students who attend non-profit private schools or public universities do not face the same debt issue because their job prospects are much higher upon graduation.

Borrowers at for-profit institutions have a harder time finding gainful employment, and when they do, their average earnings barely creep over $20,000.

“[T]he median borrower from a for-profit institution who left school in 2011 and found a job in 2013 earned about $20,900—but over one in five (21 percent) were not employed; comparable community college borrowers earned $23,900, and almost one in six (17 percent) were not employed.”

The report also finds that students who attend the University of Phoenix hold the most debt. In 2014, students there held over $35 billion dollars in student loan debt.

College students work hard to make a better life for themselves and their families — but student loans can have the opposite effect, at least in the immediate. Tuition at these private schools is astronomical, and if students cannot find jobs to pay their loans back, attaining a degree from these schools is pointless.

Introducing the Corinthian 100

Some former graduates of these colleges are beginning to realize this.

Take Corinthian Colleges, for example. As reported by NPR, 107 of its students refused to pay back their student loans as a form of protest.

In addition to a large amount of debt that the students carried, they also claimed that the degrees they received from Corinthian are not recognized by most employers.

The Associated Press reported that Corinthian shut its doors at the end of April 2014 due to federal regulations. The college had more than 100 U.S. campuses with more than 70,000 students. But when enrollment started to slump and reports showed that nearly 100% of students at for-profit schools take out student loans to pay for their education, the United States Department of Education stepped in.

According to NPR, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau met with representatives from the “Corinthian 100” to discuss “ways to address the burden of their student loans.” While this was likely a step in the right direction for those students, it didn’t fully address the student loan debt crisis that’s beginning to engulf higher education.

The Institute for College Access and Success by way of Pew Trusts shows that five states have an average debt for graduating students of more than $30,000. Consider that student loan debt now outpaces debt tied to mortgages and credit cards, and that more than 7 million U.S. borrowers are in default on their loans. Higher education just may be in crisis.

The Government Cracks Down

A couple of years ago, the U.S. Department of Education bumped up its regulation of for-profit career colleges, introducing rules meant to halt federal funding to institutions that leave students saddled with enormous debts that they are unable to repay.

The efforts by Obama’s administrations showed that federal and state authorities were ramping up their examination of the for-profit college industry, which included colleges such as the University of Phoenix and Everest College and ITT Technical Institute.

Opponents believe that many for-profit colleges charge a hefty price, yet target low-income consumers, resulting in students who have massive loans to repay and few job prospects.

U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan said, “Today too many of these programs fail to provide the training (students) need while burying them in debt they cannot repay.”

The for-profit college industry boomed during the Great Recession as colleges targeted the increasing number of unemployed Americans.

The Education Department’s new rules would penalize schools that cost their students too much debt compared to their earnings post-graduation. To be eligible for federal student loans and grants, schools must meet debt-to-income requirements for two out of three consecutive years.

The department estimated about 1,400 programs out of 5,500 covered by the regulations would fail the debt-to-income test.

Students at for-profit schools default on federal loans at a higher rate than students at traditional public colleges: over 19% after three years, compared with less than 13% at public institutions.

The government has continued with tightening regulations for colleges and universities. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 556 colleges and universities that were on a federal financial “watch list.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Education would have “increased financial oversight” into what these institutions of higher education do with the money they received from federal student aid.

On the list was a mixture of for-profit, public and Bible schools that were flagged because of accreditation, liabilities, and late financial statements. Nearly half of the institutions listed were for-profit schools such as the Art Institutes, Everest University, and Le Cordon Bleu. Many of the schools were already placed on this oversight list, but those names were previously not publicly released.

The Obama administration did more than put names of schools on lists, though.

Over the past year, they have forced schools to pay them for mishandling their funds

For example, in 2015, in what is perhaps the largest monetary settlement in higher education, Education Management Corporation (EMC) agreed to a $95.5 million settlement with the United States Justice Department. You probably know EDMC better by its school names: the Art Institutes, Argosy University, and Brown-Mackie College.

The lawsuit alleged, “that the company defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars.” The company is accused of admitting unqualified students and then encouraging them to receive federal and private loans to fund their educations.

Education Management Corporation continued to maintain its innocence and released a statement regarding the settlement.

In part that statement says:

“We are also pleased to have resolved the civil claims raised by the Department of Justice and state attorneys general. Though we continue to believe the allegations in the cases were without merit, putting these matters behind us returns our focus to educating students.”

A payout to the government of nearly $100 million, however, certainly sounds as if there was merit involved.

Education Management Corporation will continue to do business and enroll students. Because the company admitted no guilt, students who attended schools under the EDMC banner will likely be ineligible for debt relief.

Part of the settlement also includes over $100 in loan forgiveness for students who left EDMC after just 45 days of enrollment. All other students are still liable for any debt incurred while attending an EDMC institution.

While EDMC is still in business despite being accused of predatory practices, the Corinthian Colleges, mentioned earlier, shut down after being fined by the federal government.

According to Corinthian’s financial records, the institution received nearly 80% of its revenue from the federal government. Meaning the vast majority of its profit came from student loans.

The government began to investigate Corinthian because students claimed that the degrees they received weren’t being recognized by employers and they couldn’t find jobs. They also found that Corinthian was telling students to lie on their financial aid applications.

Soon after, Corinthian was fined $30 million by the federal government for “misrepresenting job placement rates,” effectively shutting the company down.

But does the government care about students?

The Corinthian 100 saga continues

Students who formerly attended Corinthian Colleges accused the United States Department of Education (USDOE) of using them as a publicity stunt.

Representatives from the “Corinthian 100” were set to meet with officials from the USDOE about their student loan debts. However, they opted to cancel the meeting because they felt they were being used.

According to the New Republic, a representative from the Debt Collective, the organization aiding the students in their quest against the USDOE, did not believe the government wanted to help.

“They’re using us so they can pretend to care about students.”

The Corinthian 100 continued to fight to get the government to forgive their student loan debt. Students that formerly attended schools under the now defunct Corinthian Colleges banner tried to exercise a clause listed in the contracts they signed for student loans.

That portion of the contract allowed for students to make a “defense of repayment” if they felt that they were deceived.

Once they found out that the federal government fined Corinthian $30 million, in part, for felonious ways of collecting debt, the 100 wanted their debt forgiven.

Students fight back—but is it enough?

According to chronicle.com, the Corinthian 100 had their debt forgiven.

“The department said…that it would discharge the debt of all students who attended one of Corinthian’s shuttered campuses after June 20, 2014, the day when the company essentially wrote its death sentence by agreeing to transfer ownership of the properties. Other Corinthian students will be eligible for loan forgiveness but to receive it, they must demonstrate that Corinthian violated state law.”

While some students likely felt some sense of relief, many students were left in the dust. After all, only some students would receive forgiveness. Others who feel that they’d been defrauded by Corinthian, as stated in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article, would have to prove that the former institution of higher education violated state law.

The Department of Education would make the process of proving fraud by colleges and universities easier.

Still–this likely will not be enough to save every student defrauded by for-profit colleges. While it is great that many received the mercy of the United States Department of Education, the other students who borrowed in good faith with the belief that there would be a good education, a degree, and solid job opportunities on the back end are left hanging.

Giving blanket relief may not be in the department’s best intentions as it would open other doors that should remain closed. But giving special attention to the rest of Corinthian’s former students and giving them extra breathing room to either pay off the debt or taking on the vast majority of the debt is at least one way to help them in the long run.

For-Profit Schools Fight Back

Unsurprisingly, for-profit schools refused to take the new regulations and fines sitting down

In fact, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a group that represents for-profit colleges, sued the U.S. Department of Education and Secretary Arne Duncan on behalf of for-profit colleges. For-profit colleges disagreed with the rules penalizing career training programs for charging high tuition that saddles students with massive debt while offering low-paying job prospects.

For-profit schools filed a lawsuit and asked a judge to reject the new regulation, claiming the Department of Education does not have the right to set debt-to-earning standards. The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities called the rule “unlawful, arbitrary, and irrational” and feels it will “needlessly harm millions of students who attend private sector colleges and universities.” They strong believe that the job a student lands and their earnings after graduation “depend heavily on factors beyond the schools’ control.”

The Education Department announced its “gainful employment” rules, which base a program’s ability to receive federal loans on whether the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate doesn’t exceed 8% of total earnings or 20% of the student’s discretionary income.

For-profit colleges were given time to make changes, but ultimately, if they failed to meet the standards, they would become ineligible for federal student aid. This made up nearly 90% of the revenue at for-profit schools.

And even more strangely, these institutions saw a steep rise in stock worth and revenue through 2014, when a lot of the regulatory changes began to take place. According to a CNN Money report, Strayer Education was perhaps the biggest success of the bunch. Strayer provides a variety of accreditation, bachelor degree, and master’s degree options through programs that are set up at 100 other colleges and universities across the country.  DeVry Education Group and Capella also saw rising stocks.

This was likely because more and more people are seeking out alternative forms of higher education, and that non-traditional students are more commonplace as a result. But what’s interesting about these numbers is that the schools are seeing financial strength despite heightened regulations from the government and the failures of Corinthian Colleges and other alternative schools.

Should For-Profit Schools Be Put to Death?

For-profit schools are singing a different tune these days

According to a survey by the Education Advisory Board, nearly 100% of executives at online higher education programs and schools want to shift their focus to “track career outcomes” for students once they leave school.

Before this change, many online higher ed schools were focused solely on gathering funding for new programs.

This news comes on the heels of the federal government tightening its grip on for-profit institutions and the funding they receive.

The EAB survey found that executives have concern over how employers view graduates and would like to “improve messaging to prospective students.”

Messaging and how online schools are viewed have taken a beating lately. With the Corinthian 100 refusing to repay their student loans because they were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges,  for-profit colleges have developed a sour reputation.

Potential students and graduates worry that their degrees are useless. While all online colleges aren’t seen in the same light, many are grouped together because the accreditation may differ from traditional colleges and universities. Standards for online schools, especially for-profit institutions with online programs, also vary and give many employers pause before hiring a graduate from an online university, specifically that from a for-profit.

The survey also found that some online higher ed institutions will add “digital badges” and “customization certificates.”


Focusing on the quality of education the students receive—rather than focus on securing funding for the government for questionable programs—will have a better long-term impact for students and these schools.

Truthfully, while I have come down pretty hard on for-profit schools, I do not think that they are inherently bad. I think that they can be part of an array of alternative options for students who choose not to go the traditional route.

However, historically, many for-profit institutions have engaged in predatory practices. Regulating them, as the federal government has been doing over the past few years, is the right way to go so that they can become great building blocks rather than destructive forces for a future career.

Are College Payments Stealing America’s Livelihood?: The Forces Behind Skyrocketing College Costs

If it seems like college is more expensive than ever before—and with less return on investment than in previous generations—it’s not your imagination. Why is this happening? Find out in this chapter.

Consider this: today; a degree is a requirement for more entry-level jobs than before. This will be even truer in the future. In fact, according to the Committee for Economic Development, in 1965, just 11% of jobs required post-secondary training, but by 2020, 65% of U.S. jobs will require post-secondary training.

The problem is that those degrees are much more expensive than the degrees of ten or twenty years ago. This is even after taking inflation into account.

What’s happening? Are colleges inherently worth that much more than they have been in the past? While it’s true that the demand is higher, the truth is that there are many factors driving the costs of higher education in America. Here, you’ll see some of what’s going on behind the scenes. You will find out exactly what’s leading more students (and their parents) to take on hefty loans for a chance at success in life.

Is the federal government behind the rising cost of higher education?

According to Senator Elizabeth Warren, the answer is yes.

In 2015, she wrote a blistering letter to the Department of Education’s acting Education Secretary John King regarding how the department handles student loan fraud.

In the letter, Warren accuses the department of not having a proper handle on student loan contractors and specifically cites its relationship with Navient, formerly known as Sallie Mae.

In 2014, the Department of Education and Navient reached a settlement of $100 million due to Navient’s role in violating a federal law that pinches interest rates at 6% for service members.

Warren’s issue isn’t necessarily with the settlement; it’s that the department has failed to oversee its relationship with Navient.

As the company holds millions of student loans, the department’s relationship with Navient hasn’t been impacted even as the company was found to have broken the law.

Moving forward, Warren not only wants the department to reassess its position with Navient but wants to know why the company hasn’t been penalized further.

To put some fears to rest, the department launched an internal investigation into Navient’s loan practices and found that a small percentage of those who borrowed were not receiving the federally mandated rate.

Warren notes the Department of Education’s Inspector General revealed that the department’s internal investigation into Navient was flawed and erroneous.

Towards the end of the letter, Warren writes that the findings of an independent review of the department’s handling of student aid are that companies that are responsible for supervising student loan debt receive protection from the Department of Education when they break the law.

As students and former students grapple with how to pay back student loans and are harassed by the likes of companies like Navient, the information presented in Warren’s letter is damaging and sad.

If the Department of Education is indeed offering protection to companies that break the law and are failing to properly shelter students from these organizations, it proves why so many students have little faith in college affordability and the government’s role in helping them.

That’s not the only time Senator Warren has called out the Department of Education.

The Senator isn’t one to shy away from controversy, which is why it comes as no surprise that she’s railing against the United States Department of Education.

According to the New York Times, Warren held a press conference to talk about student loan debt and a system of “external checks” that would govern complaints against the department.

“We don’t trust a bank to handle its complaints, and we shouldn’t trust the federal student loan program to do it either,” Warren said according to the New York Times.

Warren criticized colleges and universities, the U.S. Department of Education, state legislatures, and more.

She said that outstanding student loan debt needs to be refinanced and that “college affordability and student debt” are issues that need to be included in the re-authorization of the Higher Education Act.

While Warren isn’t running for president, her words will likely resonate with voters on the left as she attempts to galvanize liberal and progressive voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Her colleague in the Senate, Bernie Sanders, has an ambitious plan to regarding higher education, and that’s to make it free by taxing Wall Street.

Both lawmakers are talking about issues that many students and young Americans care about: making college more affordable or just making it free all together.

We’re likely pretty far off from giving away access to colleges and universities, but in the interim, the discussion surrounding the price of higher education and the debt that students carry is certainly worth having. We just need to ensure that the talk eventually turns into action that will help students.

Or could it be the state governments’ faults?

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2015 said that higher education in the United States needs more accountability and for schools to “deliver what they promise to students.”

According to the Washington Post, Duncan gave a speech at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where he made the calls for accountability and states to discontinue the “pattern of disinvestment.”

““[T]he widespread cutbacks that states have made in their higher education budgets desperately need to be reversed,” he said. “In all, 47 states cut per-student spending between 2009 and 2014, by an average of about 13 percent. Over the past 25 years, state per-student spending is down 25 percent, after adjusting for inflation! For each dollar states put in higher education today, the federal government invests more than two.”

Duncan, in essence, was saying that the federal government cannot continue to invest lost state dollars back into higher education because many states weren’t focusing on higher education as they should.

He also mentioned in the speech that changing the system, or the culture, will be tough to accomplish.

Duncan is correct in noting that the system will not change overnight.

What’s stopping change from happening? Let’s look more closely at what states prioritize today.

According to a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 11 states spend more money on correctional facilities than public research universities.

The report outlines how many states have cut spending on higher education while increasing budgets for jails and prisons.

Higher education spending didn’t start to fall once the recession started. Funding for higher education in many states begins toppling back in 1990 from 14.6 percent to just 9.4 percent in 2014.

Michigan, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Connecticut all failed to make the cut. Each state has a higher budget for jails and prisons than public research universities.

Adjusted for inflation, spending on elementary and secondary education increased by nearly 70 percent while corrections saw an increase of over 140 percent between 1986 and 2013.

In Michigan, nearly 25 percent of the state’s spending from general fund expenditures went towards corrections compared to just 15 percent on higher education.

The percentages are much closer in other states like Rhode Island and Delaware, but corrections spending still gets a larger percentage.

Oregon seems to be the worst defender. Less than 5 percent of general fund expenditures are dedicated to higher education, but the state spends nearly 15 percent of that money on correctional facilities.

The bottom line is that too many states invest in faux rehabilitation methods and not enough on student engagement. Imagine if we invested that money upfront in our troubled youth instead of putting it towards locking them up. It takes a fundamental understanding that it NEEDS to happen, though – something that is lacking in the U.S. education system.

Another cause for concern? Rising health care costs.

According to a study, there is a correlation between the rising cost of Medicaid and declined to spend on higher education. Created by Moody’s Analytics for The National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education, the study suggests that state budgets will constrict spending on higher education because of the high cost of Medicaid.

Because money from the Affordable Care Act will start to slow by 2020, many states will have to allocate more funds for Medicaid, which in turn will cause a decrease in discretionary spending.

So, many states that are struggling with budget deficits or have deeply cut funding for higher education will likely face more financial issues.

The study portends that Medicaid will outrun state revenues. If that potential trend holds, then higher education truly is in trouble.

When colleges are the problem

For-profit schools have earned a reputation, and it’s not a favorable one, either.

For example, California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a lawsuit against the company that operates the now-defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges arguing that the organization left its students out to dry by saddling them with massive amounts of debt that many could not afford to pay back.

As a result, Corinthian Colleges Incorporated received a judgment against it of $1.17 billion to be paid to the State of California for illegal practices.

The school rewarded students with worthless degrees that many companies refused to recognize, leaving students without the ability to repay their exorbitant student loans.

So a California judge ruled for the state of California and ordered Corinthian Colleges Inc. to pay over $800 million in restitution to former students with the remaining amount going towards penalties.

This seems to be great news for students as they’ll have the ability to potentially receive some financial relief from student loans received while attending a Corinthian College.

But there may be a problem as Corinthian filed for bankruptcy last year, and by way of information from the company’s former attorney, Corinthian may not have to pay since it is no longer in operation.

No matter for the state and Harris, though, as her office has set up a website for students to visit to receive help and to gain information about the judgment.

Schools run by Corinthian Colleges Inc. operated under the umbrella of career colleges where students who wanted a college degree but didn’t have the time to absorb a traditional college schedule, could attend and receive a degree to help them receive better employment opportunities.

The company went after people of poor financial means and profited off of those individuals’ ability to receive student loans from the government and private lenders.

Corinthian likely received up to 90 percent of its funding from federal loan programs, so many of the schools were being fueled economically by the government and poor students.

Hopefully, students in California will be able to collect what was lost.

Corinthian Colleges is not the only school guilty for its mismanagement of funds.

In fact, more than 500 schools in the U.S. are among colleges being investigated. According to Insidehighered.com, the United States Department of Education is “closely monitoring a greater number of colleges and universities over concerns about their management of federal funds…”

Many of the schools on the list of potential colleges being investigated are “for-profit beauty and cosmetology schools.” These types of institutions have come under increased fire for their collection of federal funds to allow students to enroll. But many students at some for-profit schools have complained that their degrees are worthless and that they are left saddled with piles of student loan debt and no gainful employment to show for it. That, to me, is certainly cause for colleges to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Other for-profit schools listed include ITT Technical Institute, The Art Institutes, and South University.

For-profit schools aren’t languishing alone on this list, though. Cheyney University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), was placed on the department’s “most stringent form of monitoring over concerns with the institution’s ‘administrative capability.’”

Cheyney has faced financial trouble as of late due to a rise in deficits, a decrease in enrollment and a campus that is falling apart. That institutional erosion is due in part to moves made by Cheyney’s administration.

Students at any institution on the list of colleges being investigated may want to monitor the progress of the list as schools are removed or added periodically. This shows that the Department of Education is serious about ensuring that the education of students at these types of schools isn’t wasted on loans and empty job guarantees. It’s important that predatory institutions that do not implement the proper job placement and degree-use policies are called out, and if necessary, shut down.

Finally, it’s worth noting that schools need to be accountable not just for managing their funds, but for ensuring that their students finish school.

There are a lot of metrics in place to measure the effectiveness of P-12 schooling in the U.S.  Stats shine a particularly bright light on public schools, particularly when they are failing students. Dropout rates are just one of the factors taken into account when these numbers are calculated and tend to weigh heavily on the schools and districts who have low percentages.

However, the same does not seem to be true once the high school years pass. Compared to P-12 institutions, colleges and universities seemingly get a pass when it comes to dropout rates – perhaps because in the past, higher education was considered more of a privilege and less of a right. A college dropout was simply walking away from the assumed higher quality of life that came with the degree but still had opportunity to excel without it

That’s not the case anymore. As of 2013, 17.5 million students were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities.  More than ever, colleges and universities have a responsibility to not simply admit students, but ensure they are guided properly to graduation. In other words, institutions of higher education should not be able to just take their student’s money and say “good luck.” They should provide the tools necessary for students to successfully achieve a college education and anticipate the issues that could prevent that.

Authors Ben Miller and Phuong Ly discussed the issue of the U.S. colleges with the worst graduation rates in their book College Dropout Factories. Within the pages, the authors encouraged educators at all levels to acknowledge that colleges and universities should share responsibility for successful or failing graduation rates and that the institutions with the worst rates should be shut down. Perhaps the most terrifying suggestion in the book (for colleges and universities) was that public institutions with low graduation rates would be subjected to reduced state funding.

The book was written based on findings from Washington Monthly that ranked the U.S. schools with the lowest six-year graduation rates among colleges and universities, including public ones like the University of the District of Columbia (8%), Haskell Indian Nations University (9%), Oglala Lakota College (11%), Texas Southern University (13%) and Chicago State University (13%). These stats were published in 2010, so they are not the most current available but a quick scan of the University of the District Columbia’s official page shows graduation rate numbers through the end of the 2003 – 2004 school year. The past nine years are nowhere to be found. The school boasts 51.2 percent underrepresented minorities in the study body, including 47 percent that are Black – but what good are those numbers if these students are not benefitting from their time in college because they receive no degree?

In the case of Chicago State University, the latest statistics show some improvement from the 2010 ones. The six-year graduation rate is up to 21 percent – but the transfer-out rate is nearly 30 percent. The school has 92 percent underrepresented minorities that attend – 86 percent who are black and 70 percent who are female – but again, what good does any of that do if these traditionally disadvantaged students are not graduating?

In all cases of college dropout factories, the P-12 institutions chalk up a victory on their end. They graduated the students and also saw them accepted into a college. What happens after that is between the students and their higher education choices.

This, to me, is a problem. The accountability for student success extends beyond the years that they are in P-12 classrooms. Graduation from high school, and acceptance into college, should never be the final goal of P-12 educators. That is not a victory. That is only halftime.

As far as the colleges and universities are concerned, higher accountability should be demanded from educators, students, parents and any Americans that want the best economy and highest-educated population. Public institutions, in particular, should be subject to restructuring or take over if dropout rates are too high. The lack of delivery on the college degree dream at many of these schools is appalling, frankly, and has gone on long enough.

They’re all making it worse

Evidently, it’s not just one person or one group causing all the issues.  This is a multifaceted problem…and it is one that will, unfortunately, price a lot of lower-income people out of their number one ticket for social mobility in America. It will be a shame if we cannot figure out how to fix a broken system.


The HBCU Advantage, Part I: A Lesson in Thriving While in Dire Financial Straits

Today, most Historically Black Colleges and Universities fight financial ruin as they struggle to find their new position in today’s integrated world. Getting the funds to not only survive, but blossom, is an exercise in creativity—and HBCUs are up to the challenge. Want to know how? This chapter covers some of their latest undertakings.

Why HBCUs love donations (hint: it’s not the money)

Stephen A. Smith, best known for his work on the ESPN show “First Take,” plans to give $250,000 to his alma mater, Winston-Salem University. According to Journalnow.com, Smith is dedicated to aiding the school he loves.

Smith made the announcement during a fundraiser for Winston-Salem where he pledged to give $50,000 per year for the next five years to the school.

While speaking, Smith said that HBCUs need assistance and that he and other alumni should step up to the plate to help the schools thrive.

“A lot of HBCUs are hurting financially, but I’m here to tell you they are needed in a big way.”

Smith was a big hit at breakfast, and his announcement regarding his generous donation came as a shock to the university. Smith did not mention it ahead of his speech, apparently, and so the sounds of shock in the room were genuine. Elwood Robinson, the school’s chancellor, was left speechless because he was unaware that Smith planned to give so much back to the school at one time.

“But to do what he did and back it up like that and it’s just tremendous. It just speaks of the commitment he has to this university, and it goes back to what Big House Gaines taught so many of his players and students, and that’s to give back,” said Robinson.

Big House Gaines was Smith’s basketball coach when he attended Winston-Salem, and because of Smith’s generosity towards his former school, he was inducted into the Big House Gaines Hall of Fame.

I think what Smith did is admirable and will hopefully set the stage for other HBCU alumni to donate to the schools that helped them reach success. With so much competition for education available, it’s important that HBCUs are supported both in spirit and in tangible funds by the people they have graduated.

It’s not just alumni donations that are welcome. Donations from outside organizations seem to be popular as well.

One church was certainly generous with its gifts

Many students headed to Historically Black Colleges and Universities this fall received fantastic going away presents from Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. It gave away more than $2 million in scholarships to high school students on their way to HBCUs later this year.

The event held at T.C. Williams High School, the school made famous by the movie Remember the Titans starring Denzel Washington, hosted the 14th annual HBCU College Festival where more than 3,000 students, parents, and volunteers attended.

More than 60 HBCUs were represented at the festival, and many students attained full ride scholarships to an HBCU.

Over $40,000 in application fees were waived, and in addition to the full scholarships given, close to 170 students received merit scholarships on site.

With over 5,000 students registered to attend, the event was the largest in the festival’s history. While students from Virginia were there, others came from areas such as Florida, New York, Illinois, and other places.

It was, to say the least, a resounding success. The event showed why HBCUs are so important and how the community may come together for a great cause.

Some students who received scholarships and money for college at the event may have received a once in a lifetime opportunity as the cost of college tuition, and fees continue to rise.

State legislators have cut into budgets for higher education, and Congress has attempted to curtail the available dollars for Pell Grants.

But the great news for students who may see a bleak future due to current events is that we still have organizations and churches that are willing to provide support for students who need it, and for those who deserve it.

Next year’s festival is likely to be just as successful, and with more than $2 million given out in scholarship money this year, hopefully, more is handed out in 2017.

Let’s look at another donation given to support HBCU excellence

Duke Energy is putting its financial support behind Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

By way of Prnewswire.com, the energy giant gave a grant of $35,000 to the North Carolina organization The Institute to supports its new HBCU Leadership Exchange.

A non-profit that supports business diversity, The Institute will soon launch the HBCU Leadership Exchange to help support and forge relationships between corporations and students enrolled at HBCUs in North Carolina.

In short, The Institute’s new program will look to connect students at HBCUs with jobs in corporate America. It’s not a bad program to build as diversity within the corporate field–specifically technology–is always a hot button topic.

The Institute has a track record of aiding minority business development as the group offers services to assist the growth of small businesses. As The Institute has been around for more than three decades, the HBCU Leadership Exchange is starting off with strong backing.

Also–Duke Energy gives close to $30 million in grants each year in areas such as education, economic development, the environment, and much more.

But this new program has potential to serve a grand number of black students. While the grant from Duke Energy isn’t substantial, it at least gives The Institute a portion of the starting funds needed to help launch the program.

With no reason to believe that the exchange will not have success, Duke Energy will likely to continue to provide financial support that will only grow in the future.

As mentioned previously, the goal of this new exchange is to foster relationships between corporations and HBCU students.

Students who are looking for jobs in a specific area will likely be paired with mentors or given the opportunity to meet and greet leaders from certain industries.

With growth and limitless potential on the horizon, students at HBCUs in North Carolina should be excited about this new venture.

Here’s something interesting about the nature of these donations: they’re not just about helping the schools stay afloat. A lot of money goes to help students go to school, preparing the next generation of students for the workforce. Notice also the donation to The Institute, where the eventual goal is better-represented leadership in corporate America. The money that is being used to further HBCU causes is an investment in tomorrow, rather than a means to survive today. There’s something admirable about this.

Is the government finally on board? Government support increases

In recent years, it seems like HBCUs have been dwindling into obscurity. They have been fighting potential obsolescence as more black students choose to attend predominantly white universities. To stick around, they have needed to rebrand themselves or establish the kind of reputation that keeps students dying to attend.  Unfortunately, many schools have been unable to do this and have faced de-funding and closing.

But it seems as if recently, the government is realizing just how important these institutions are.

For example, to advance the goals of HBCUs, North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams has introduced the HBCU Innovation Fund Act. The bill would create a fund that would make the availability of $250 million in grants open to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

To improve viability, student achievement, rates of graduation, enrollment figures, and more, the accessibility of grant money to HBCUs would help to push them towards modernization.

As HBCUs continue to receive press regarding how some schools are doing financially, and if segregation regarding offered programs occurs, it is refreshing to see that all HBCUs may receive a boost if this bill passes.

The legislation, H.R. 4857, was lauded by the United Negro College Fund as innovative and has over 15 co-sponsors in Congress.

If the bill passes, it will open HBCUs up to more than just money and opportunity. Grant money would be used to help remodel certain courses and create new programs. As with the new Queer and Cultural Studies program being offered at Bowie State University, more programs of this nature may be cultivated through HBCUs if H.R. 4857 is passed.

There will be more opportunities for inclusion and recruitment, and retention efforts will certainly increase.

Some HBCUs struggle to maintain strong enrollment numbers, particularly in a culture where online learning often replace on-campus initiatives. This bill would hopefully help many HBCUs create stronger programs to go after more students.

But more than anything, this legislation would make HBCUs more competitive in an educational environment that has changed. Some schools have failed to keep up, through no fault of its own, and some are beginning to fall behind.

Stemming that tide and keeping HBCUs around so that more students of color are served, and the cultural importance of each school is maintained, an HBCU fund for innovation and is needed and welcomed.

It may be a while before the HBCU Innovation Fund Act makes its way into law. Fortunately, there will also be more immediate funds available for HBCUs over the next fiscal year.

According to Salisburypost.com, funding for the federal program that provides financial assistance for HBCUs will increase nearly $400 million. That’s good news for some of the country’s oldest universities and trailblazers for providing a college education for everyone.

“The omnibus spending bill provides a $22 million increase for the Title III Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities program administered by the U.S. Department of Education, providing the largest funding boost for the program in six years. As a result, total program funding will increase to $387 million in Fiscal Year 2016.”

The new money included in the spending bill will continue to help some of these schools recruit new students, replenish endowments, and perhaps most important, buy cutting-edge technology.

United Negro College Fund CEO Dr. Michael Lomax believes that this funding will work towards making HBCUs more attractive to new students and said as much in the Salisburypost.com article. I share Dr. Lomax’s belief that HBCUs need to be protected as part of the important college landscape in America.

For the past couple of years, the HBCU category of schools has been under increased scrutiny due to financial reasons and because some schools have been forced to close. There has also been some criticism that the very roles HBCUs were created to take on are not as relevant in today’s diverse college population. I’d argue that the first problem can see potential improvement with federal funding and a bigger cash influx from alumni, private donors, and business partnerships. I’d also argue that though the primary role of HBCUs has evolved, they are more relevant than ever and we should continue to support them.

While increased funding will not cure each and every problem that HBCUs have, it will alleviate some of the financial pressure that some schools face – so I think this funding is a step in the right direction.

Creative ways HBCUs are generating revenue

Many institutions of higher education are looking to carve new avenues to create revenue.

Howard University is no exception—except that it has stumbled across something old to inject new money into the university.

Jair Lynch Real Estate has entered into a deal with Howard University to develop Meridian Hill dormitory into luxury rentals available to the general public.

The move will ease some of the financial pain the school has felt over the years. An idea first pitched by Howard President Wayne Frederick a couple of years ago; the school finally pulled the trigger on the deal this month.

According to Washingtonpost.com, Howard will still own the property and required Jair Lynch to pay an upfront fee of $22 million for the rights to redevelop the property.

Over the past few years, Howard’s financial health has come into question as the school’s credit has been downgraded twice and the school’s staff has been reorganized or cut.

To contend with those issues, Frederick identified the school’s real estate as a way to drive new income. Valued at over $1.5 billion, Howard has a lot to review regarding what it may sell or lease.

But Frederick and school officials aren’t ready to sell off everything. Taking their time to evaluate what’s in the school’s best interest, they don’t seem to be in a rush.

Every move hasn’t been met with open arms. The school has decided to enter into an FCC auction for its airwaves that may bring in upwards of $461 million. That would mean that Howard would rid itself of WHUT-TV; a sale that is sure to upset alumni and students.

The decision to enter into the auction isn’t final as the school has until March to decide if it still wants to participate. Howard may decide to opt-out as there is no guarantee that it will receive a value of $461 million for its airwaves.

I applaud Howard’s decision to tap the resources it already has to stabilize revenue, and it will be fascinating to see what sort of interest is sparked for the luxury apartments.


Overall, it’s great to see how much support HBCUs are getting, and how much effort the colleges themselves are putting into being their best yet. While it’s true that we are in challenging times for HBCUs, the moves HBCUs and their supporters are making will ensure that these challenges are merely growing pains, rather than the end of the road.

The HBCU Advantage, Part II: Or How to Win When the Competition is Tough

HBCUs came into existence in vastly different times, when they were necessary for black students to attend college. Today, they have to be savvy if they want to stick around. Let’s take a look at the shift HBCUs are making to become prominent in today’s integrated culture.

There are many different business models out there, but in general, some serve the mass market and some appeal to niches. When it comes to today’s colleges, it’s easy to see PWIs (or predominantly white institutions) as “mass market” and HBCUs as “niche” schools.

HBCUs have also had long histories, were created to give a healthy university experience to specific populations of students, and are facing closures today as more and more students choose to attend mainstream colleges.

The question stands. How will HBCUs compete against PWIs that now accept and actively recruit minority students and have more resources to serve them? To stick around, HBCUs need to find solutions.

We’re seeing a lot of these solutions in action today. Here is how they are handling situations where the deck is stacked against them.

A solution for when affordability is no longer a good selling point

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders wants to help students by giving them a free ride to college. Sanders’ plan calls for making public colleges and universities tuition free. It is, to him at least, a way to make American students the most educated in the world by making the way to college easier.

But some are criticizing Sanders for his plan because it would force states to pick up the extra tab; something that many states are struggling with currently. State legislatures have cut k-12 and higher education for years and don’t seem to be slowing down, even with improvements in the economy.

Another criticism being levied towards Sanders and his plan for college is that it will potentially destroy HBCUs. Representative James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president, has taken issue with Sanders’ free college plan.

Talking to the press earlier this week, Clyburn said that private HBCUs will begin to shut down because states will start to offer free tuition to public colleges. He continued his hits on Senator Sanders by saying that nothing in life is free including college.

For what it’s worth, Clyburn said that he believes in making college more affordable for anyone who wants to attend, just not free.

Clyburn’s assessment of Sanders and his plan for college was devoid of what it will cost as he is attempting to bolster Clinton’s stock with black voters.

To the point of what it may cost to make college free, Sanders has said that he will have to raise taxes to pay for covering college tuition. He wants to place a larger tax on Wall Street speculators which is likely to be a tough sell.

But for what he’s at least attempting to do, it’s not a bad idea. The cost of college has spiraled out of control, and many students have been priced out of even thinking of going to college. But he’ll have to deal with the potential consequences of what this may do to private colleges, including HBCUs.

A solution for when the state isn’t on your side

Issues with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in Maryland continue as the Maryland HBCU faculty caucus put forth a protest at the state’s capitol in March 2016.

The group is demanding equality for HBCUs in the state as they claim that PWIs (Predominately White Institutions) receive better treatment from the state’s lawmakers.

From academic programs to funding, the caucus believes that the state is mistreating its HBCUs and demands better.

The divide runs so deep that a group of former students who attended the state’s four HBCUs filed a lawsuit that claimed that the state gave cover for Maryland PWI’s to commit academic segregation.

In essence, the state allowed for duplicate program offerings at Maryland PWIs when the state’s HBCUs already offered the same coursework.

A judge sided with the former students in their claim that segregation had indeed taken place.

Although the legal wrangling continues as neither side has been able to compromise on a solution that will satisfy either party, the protest leads its way back to the merits of the lawsuit: HBCUs receive improper treatment from the state.

To gain equal footing with Maryland’s PWIs, the caucus wants to eradicate all duplicate programs that are already offered at HBCUs within the state. Secondly, the group wants programs that are in high demand to be offered at Maryland’s HBCUs.

This will partially satisfy its needs, but there is still work to be done.

No resolution has been found, and there is no word on if the group’s suggestions, or demands, will be acted upon.

If anything, this shows just how fragile the relationship may be between state lawmakers and leaders at HBCUs. Some struggle financially, and because of that, those issues may show up in how the schools perform academically.

Hopefully, both sides may soon find a solution to an almost decade-old legal issue.

A solution that may lead to mixed results

In 2015, Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Albany State University (ASU) was forced to merge with Darton State College, a predominately white institution.

The merger was presented as ASU faced mounting financial issues. The school’s enrollment was declining as it dropped nearly 11 percentage points last year, and 15 academic programs were canceled due to money and enrollment issues.

Albany State had problems, and one way to fix them was to merge the HBCU with another school.

That’s where we find Darton State College; a predominately white institution (PWI) of higher education that focuses on two-year degrees.

But no matter, this move was seen as a way to eventually save a struggling ASU from itself. Bleeding money and students, the merger gave some students and leaders hope for the future.

That was until the school’s new mission statement was released. Operating under the banner of Albany State University, students were under the impression that the school would still be considered an HBCU and have that distinction noted in the mission statement.

Darton State’s student body is more diverse as just 45 percent of its student body is black. To accommodate, the state Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia proposed, and approved, a new mission statement that does not include Albany State University as an HBCU.

The old statement notes ASU’s status as an HBCU in the first sentence, while the new one only mentions that the school has historical roots.

Upset over the missing nomenclature, more than 300 ASU students protested the altered mission statement and walked out of the school’s Honor’s Day festivities as ASU President Dr. Art Dunning prepared to speak.

He promised those remaining that while HBCU is missing from the mission statement that ASU will remain an HBCU. Dunning was careful to note that ASU isn’t the only HBCU that doesn’t explicitly note that in its mission statement as seven other HBCUs fail to do so as well.

Dr. Dunning makes good points, but students there are likely feeling that their school is being taken away from them. Many black students choose to attend HBCUs because of the rich history and cultural significance that cannot be found on the campuses of PWIs.

Some probably feel that that experience may be taken away from them if even the smallest things–like a mission statement–is changed.

On the one hand, it’s great that ASU is here to stay. On the other hand, will moves such as the new mission statement dilute the HBCU experience and message? Could this school’s roots and purpose be forgotten in the long run now that its mission statement does not explicitly state that it is an HBCU?

A solution that fills a desperate need

Actor Nate Parker, best known for his work in movies Red TailsThe Great Debaters, and The Birth of a Nation, has started a new film school at Wiley College, a Historically Black College, and University.

The name of the program will be the Nate Parker School of Film and Drama and will open this fall.

Parker launched the school to increase opportunities for persons of color, specifically black people, who are interested in working in film. Parker said that that he wants the new school to cover everything involved in the filmmaking process including sound and lighting.

Familiar with Wiley College, Parker filmed the move The Great Debaters with actors Denzel Washington and Jurnee Smollett-Bell there nearly ten years ago.

In addition to creating the new school, Parker recently sold his newest and latest independent project, The Birth of a Nation, to Fox Searchlight for nearly $18 million.

The movie is based on Nate Turner’s slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831. Parker directs and stars in the film about Turner. Still, in production, The Birth of a Nation has a scheduled release date of October 7th, 2016.

The good news continues for Wiley as the state of Texas honored the school with three historical markers. Professor H.B. Pemberton, Matthew W. Dogan, and the man responsible for coaching the debate team known as the Great Debaters, Professor Melvin B. Tolson.

Between Parker starting a new film school at Wiley, and three figures that were vital to the success of the school, history continues to be made at Wiley College.

With varying news about the health and viability of HBCUs, Wiley College’s ability to remain innovative while attracting new talent is important and worth celebrating. This shows just how much America, and black students, needs HBCUs — for new opportunities like the new one that Nate Parker is creating on the campus of Wiley College.

A solution that promotes an interdisciplinary experience

North Carolina Central University (NCCU) is set to offer a new minor in the fall of 2016. Women and Gender Studies will make its debut at NCCU, and the school will be the first historically black college and university (HBCU) in North Carolina to introduce such a minor.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Carlton Wilson believes that the minor will allow students new chances to research how events– current and in the past — are identified with women and gender.

In essence, this minor may be viewed as a subtopic of intersectionality where as one theory or subject may not be properly studied without the other. While the two words women and gender are certainly separate, it is tough to dismember each because of the power structures that are connected to them.

For example, we cannot gain context of what it is to be a woman without examining how hyper-masculinity, or just masculinity in general, has affected women. The same goes for gender.

The minor will delve deeper than what I just mentioned as African diaspora, women and their global experiences, equality, and more will also be studied by students who choose to select Women and Gender Studies as a minor.

Women and Gender Studies will be available to all students to select, and hopefully many will choose to do so. Courses attached to minors like this will teach students to think critically about issues and areas that impact them or their social structures directly. Race, class, sexism, religion, and so much more will be better understood once students successfully move through the coursework associated with Women and Gender Studies.

It will also give men who take the course a better understanding of just how privilege and masculinity create avenues of opportunities for them that may not be the same for women. I look forward to hearing more about the program once it launches.

A solution where companies are created just to serve HBCUs

Four former Historically Black College and University administrators have partnered with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to start a new executive search firm.

Titled TM2 Executive Search, the goal of the new company is to pair candidates with administrative jobs at HBCUs.

Former president of Howard University, Sidney Ribeau; Dorothy Yancy, former president of Shaw University; John Garland, former president of Central State University; and Wayne Watson, former president of Chicago State University have all come together to form the aforementioned TM2.

What’s interesting and intuitive about the new venture is that it is the first of its kind for HBCUs. No other company will focus on the needs of HBCUs by searching for prospective employees to fill positions at these schools.

Getting into an arena that will surely help HBCU graduates, and help HBCU schools in the process, is a plus for those who support HBCUs and would like to continue that support post-graduation.

But one reason the effort was started was because many search firms that help colleges find administrators rarely focus on the need of HBCUs. There was an opening in the marketplace to address a specific need, and TM2 did just that.

Because HBCUs are steeped in history and have a deep culture that some may find intimidating or hard to read, the positions may be hard to fill through a traditional head hunting firm.

That may no longer be the case as TM2 gets started.

While the company is certainly focused on servicing HBCUs, one does not have to be a graduate of a Historically Black College and University to be considered for a position found through TM2.

More companies of this nature will hopefully be created in the future as the needs of HBCUs can be vastly different than those of predominately white institutions of higher learning.

A solution where HBCUs diversify their student bodies

Institutions of higher education have the felt the sting of budget cuts due to cramped state budgets. None more so than Historically Black Colleges and Universities as many black schools have turned to creative means to remain viable.

Some HBCUs are looking to their student bodies as a means to find new revenue. Recruiting students that aren’t traditional may eventually save some of the nation’s HBCUs.

Non-black students are starting to litter many HBCU campuses due to educational opportunities but also because so many schools are strapped for cash.

From students who are white to Asian, to Latino, HBCUs have to recruit non-traditional students to keep its doors open.

While this isn’t necessarily a discovery as HBCUs have always welcomed students who aren’t black, the number of non-black students on HBCU campuses is starting to rise.

As recent as 2014, the University of Pennsylvania reported that the non-black population of students at HBCUs is at least 20 percent.

It’s also worth noting that many colleges that have a traditional student population of white students have stepped up efforts to diversify its campuses with black students, which has decreased the enrollment at many HBCUs.

Of course, without a steady flow of students, schools are unable to keep its doors open, and with state legislatures continuing to cut money from education, HBCUs have to find new avenues of revenue.

But this news hasn’t come without controversy or concern. Some alumni at HBCUs that are turning its focus to welcome more non-traditional students on campus are concerned that their school’s changing demographic will upset the history and culture that many alumni and black students enjoy about HBCUs.

It is unlikely that HBCU campuses will be so overrun with non-black students that some will have to drop the HBCU moniker, but without a diversifying campus population and new ways to make money, HBCUs will be unable to remain open if the trend of tightening state budgets continues.

When you look for solutions, others notice

Take Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, for instance.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has kicked off a tour of Historically Black Colleges, and Universities called “Feel the Bern.”

The presidential candidate will tour a host of HBCUs including Howard University, South Carolina State University, Jackson State University, Alabama State University, Florida A&M University, and many more.

Sanders is attempting to connect with young black voters by talking about issues that matter to them, such as income inequality and criminal justice reform.

According to nbcnews.com, Sanders, and his team face an uphill battle in states where black voters will be crucial, such as South Carolina.

“A recent Monmouth University poll showed Hillary Clinton’s lead at 69 to 21 percent over Sanders and other major polls show Clinton with a sizable lead over the Vermont senator.”

Sanders will need to ensure that his reach goes farther than just black students, but he also understands that the youth vote helped to welcome President Barack Obama to the Oval Office.

But Sanders has a radical message that resonates with college students. He has a plan to make college free for anyone who wants to attend and also wants to change America’s healthcare system over to single-payer.

That’s radical enough to bend the ear of any first-year political science major. While most believe Sanders isn’t a true contender for President, his messages are stirring up a lot of debate, particularly what some feel is a socialist view on what American life should be. His free college plan isn’t so radical, though, as President Obama has proposed the same for the first two years of community college for students who can keep their grades up.

It will be interesting to see how the young vote, and the minority vote, stacks up for Sanders. Will it be enough to elect him to the highest office in the land?

HBCUs are in the business of looking for solutions

There are many ways to react to the fact that PWIs are taking over. Giving up is one way, and as I’ve discussed on my website, some schools have. Fortunately, many schools are finding ways to serve the students of today. The HBCU advantage in 2016 is finding and providing the “missing link” for its students—and it’s different from what students needed in 1956.