The Fight for HBCUs Over Education Department Numbers



By: April Ryan,

President Barack Obama is on a two-day bus tour focused on college affordability. His first stop was State University of New York. He is pushing his idea of a college ranking system that essentially lets you see what colleges or universities offer for the biggest bang for your buck.

The White House believes the rankings will drive down rising college costs while promoting competitive tuition pricing. There is also a hope the rankings will help expand the American Middle Class and help the economy.

Meanwhile, there are other intense debates on college affordability when it comes to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the controversial Parent Plus Loan. Both, advocates for HBCUs and a Department of Education HBCU official have differed on the same set of numbers of how many students did not return to school this Fall because the new strict loan guidelines cut money due to bad credit. Both sides in this fight agree from March to August of 2013, there were over 57,500 requests for the loan of which 39,206 were denied. Out of the 4,214 that reapplied for the loan, 3,953 students were granted the loan.

Prior to the change in the federal loan, parents were able to borrow an unlimited amount of money with higher interest rates. A Department of Education Official says “the change occurred to bring the Parent Plus Loan in line with other existing loan program criteria.”

Joel Harrell

Joel Harrell, Acting Executive Director at U.S. Department of Education, Office of The White House Initiative on HBCUs

Joel Harrell, Acting Executive Director for HBCU’s at the Department of Education says they “have a challenge to look at two sets of numbers; total denial for all plus applicants” and adverse credit with a “charge off and/or collection issues.”

It is now a waiting game on the loan approval numbers for students at the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities this 2013-2014 school year. The numbers for this Fall “are not even in yet,” according to Harrell. He does not expect colleges to begin reporting statistics until late fall, “October or November”. But he does acknowledge, the Department of Education has seen the impact of the change in the loan approval process. He says it began showing up in the “Fall of 2012.”

CBC Chairwoman Marsha Fudge says, “HBCU’s have lost more than150 million dollars over the last school year” because of changes in how the federal loan is being dispersed.

LISTEN: April Ryan interviews Joel Harrell and CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge

Hampton University President and Chair of President Obama’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs William R. Harvey

Hampton University President and Chair of President Obama’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs William R. Harvey

That financial loss is causing many HBCU’s to look at belt tightening and find ways to make up for the loss.

In a written statement, Hampton University President and Chair of President Obama’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs William R. Harvey says “the solution to this problem is quite simple, the Department of Education should immediately return to the pre-2011 interpretation of “adverse credit history.”

The following data is from the Department of Education HBCU PLUS Reconsideration Summary.







UPDATE: This story was updated to clarify 39,206 represents the number of denials of the loan, not the number of students that were denied.



  1. Derek Davis says:

    Thjs is not a surprise. Blacks have been the hardest hit by the great recession. If you are a black family who has been severely impacted by the economic collapse, what do think your credit score is going to look like? You will not be in any position to assist your son or daughter of color with financial assistance. DOE’s policy result in larger numbers of minority students being denied access to higher education.

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