Thurgood Marshall College Fund Outraged at Delayed Implementation
of Parent PLUS Loan Regulations Impacting over 28,000 College Students
Low and Middle Income College Students Face Crisis as a Result
WASHINGTON, DC (October 21, 2014) – The U.S. Department of Education plans to issue a statement this week regarding the release of the new Parent PLUS Loan (PPL) Regulation, which will become effective July 2015.
“The delayed implementation of PPL regulations is as disturbing as the unlikely scenario of our government issuing a statement indicating they have a cure for Ebola and then announcing the cure will not be released until July 2015,” said TMCF President & CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. “While some may balk at the comparison of a potential global health epidemic to denied access to education for low to middle class students, the end result is the same – a national crisis.”
TMCF has been at the forefront on the PPL issues urging Secretary Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama to reconsider the new criteria implemented without warning in late September 2011, particularly for those students who were then-enrolled in school and whose families had received PLUS Loans before the change. Taylor and other higher education leaders have held several meetings with the Education Department and sent letters requesting students to be “grandfathered” so they could continue their education.
Just two months ago, TMCF called on HBCU leaders, advocates and alumni to speak out on the proposed federal PLUS Loan program changes as the Education Department published its proposed reform changes. Taylor cited that the changes were too little, too late as colleges were already in financial trouble – HBCUs in particular.
The 2011 change negatively impacted more than 28,000 HBCU students. Nearly three years later, the PPL negotiated rulemaking process was finally completed in May 2014. Waiting another year until July 2015 to implement this rule means thousands more students will continue to be negatively impacted by the PPL changes for yet another academic year. HBCUs continue to produce a disproportionate number of black STEM graduates. In addition, HBCUs educate a large pool of minority college graduates – growing the nation’s workforce pipeline.
“This is an American crisis, not just an African American crisis, affecting low and middle income students and their families!” said Taylor. “Students forced to remain at home with college debt, no degree, and no jobs are some of the outcomes of the Education Department’s decision to tighten credit standards on PPL with no warning. It’s unacceptable to now make them wait until July 2015. We call upon Secretary Duncan to make these changes effective immediately.”
ABOUT THE THURGOOD MARSHALL COLLEGE FUND (TMCF)
TMCF is named for the U.S. Supreme Court’s first African-American Justice. Established in 1987, TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending its 47 member-schools that include publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), medical schools and law schools. Through its scholarships and programs, TMCF plays a key role in preparing the leaders of tomorrow.
Higher Education Expert and Consultant
An Open Letter to HBCU Graduates
Posted: 10/16/2014 7:10 pm EDT Updated: 10/16/2014 7:59 pm EDT
Dear HBCU graduates,
Although most of us have never met, we share a special bond as graduates of one of America’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). With few exceptions, these are the places that sprouted from sweat-soaked seeds planted by the sons and daughters of former slaves, sharecroppers and subsistence farmers whose belief in the power of education confounded the plans of plantation owners, straw bosses and Southern white politicians. HBCUs were the places that accepted us because they wanted to serve us, not because they were forced to do so or wanted to “diversify” their enrollment. They welcomed us with open arms and did not need to establish black culture centers or persuade faculty and staff to accept or embrace us. HBCUs never characterized us as high-risk or academically or culturally disadvantaged; they chose instead to focus on our assets. Thankfully, we were the reason that HBCUs existed and not a special project on diversity and inclusion. Most of us would agree that our alma mater enveloped us in a culture of caring from which it was nearly impossible to escape. As a consequence, we developed the intellectual, social and leadership skills that allowed us to compete with anyone in the world. All of this HBCUs did with only a fraction of the fiscal resources available to predominately white universities (PWIs).
I am sure you must have read by now that HBCUs are at a major crossroads. Enrollment is declining, in part because of increased competition from PWIs, online universities, proprietary schools and community colleges. In fact, according to the Oct. 9, 2014, edition of Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the University of Phoenix Online Campus is the largest producer of African-American recipients of bachelor’s degrees in all disciplines. In addition, leadership and fiscal instability, problems with accreditation and growing discord between presidents and boards of trustees are affecting even the strongest HBCUs. In all fairness, I must note that many of these same challenges afflict PWIs as well. The difference, in my view, is the fact that failure at HBCUs has disproportionate implications for African-American students, families and the communities in which they are located. The failure of HBCUs is not an option; we have too much riding on them to let that happen.
Fellow HBCU graduates, we can and must come to the aid of our institutions while there is still time to make a difference. Fiscal insolvency and the loss of accreditation are two insurmountable challenges from which I have not known any institution, HBCU or PWI, to recover. What follows are some concrete steps we can and must take to support HBCUs.
- We must stop complaining about the imperfections of HBCUs and fretting about the few things that didn’t go as well as we would have liked when we were students. There are neither perfect schools nor perfect people.
- We must be willing to serve as ambassadors for our alma mater by referring prospective students, including our own children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends, to the admissions office. We shouldn’t be persuaded solely by the size of a PWI scholarship or its marketing prowess when making a student referral. The ice at PWIs really isn’t any colder than it is at an HBCU! In fact, many black students who initially attend PWIs end up graduating from HBCUs.
- We must be willing to share with our alma mater our expertise — without charge. That expertise is just as diverse as the careers that we have, or have had, and can be used to improve curricular offerings, university operations, and marketing and facilitate job placement for graduating students, among other things.
- We must be willing to provide access to our vast network of people, programs and services that will allow our alma mater to achieve levels of excellence and responsiveness not otherwise possible. By activating our collective networks, we can do more than imaginable to strengthen HBCUs and enhance their competitiveness. The soul singer Jerry Butler was correct when he proclaimed, “Only the strong survive.”
- We must be willing to invest our money in the places that produced us, and we must be committed to doing so every month of every year. I never quite understood how HBCU alums expected their alma mater to achieve and sustain excellence without money! Have you ever noticed that there are no poor schools on the U.S. News and World Report’s national rankings of excellent schools? Many years ago, to emphasize the importance of investing in what we value, my friend and pastor, the late Dr. Robert Lowery, reminded his parishioners that life is like a bank account: “You can’t make a draw unless you make a deposit.” Unless we as alums make a deposit (invest), our alma mater cannot offer competitive scholarships, purchase state-of-the-art equipment, hire top professors, or offer study-abroad opportunities for students, among other things.
During the course of my long career in the academy, I made a lot of speeches and listened to even more. There are two comments that I vividly remember from the many speeches I’ve heard. The first came from the late Dr. Elias Blake, who served as president of Clark College. He opined that HBCUs succeed in educating low-wealth, less-well-prepared students because they provide a psychologically supportive environment. The second comment came from Dr. Patrick Swygert, who served for a decade as president of Howard University. He noted that there is a difference between a graduate of a university and an alumnus. A graduate is one who simply holds a degree from the institution, while an alumnus is one who holds a degree and is invested in the institution’s success and well-being. All of us who profess to love our alma mater should ask ourselves, “Am I a graduate or an alumnus?”
In future blog posts, I will discuss in greater detail what HBCU alums can do in each of the five areas referenced above. Meanwhile, we can all demonstrate our support for HBCUs by referring at least three prospective students to our alma mater or another HBCU for 2015 admission. One final piece of advice: Refer students — without regard to race, sex or sexual orientation — who are academically prepared and can benefit from the opportunity to study in an environment where caring still matters.
Xavier President Norman Francis Announces Retirement
Xavier University of Louisiana President Norman Francis today announced his retirement, ending the longest tenure of any contemporary college president in American history with 46 years at the helm of the historically Black Catholic university.
Dr. Francis, a 1952 XULA graduate, was named president in 1968, becoming the first non-clergy president in the university’s history. Under his direction, Xavier emerged as one of the nation’s premier training grounds for African-Americans in fields of medicine and science, and remains as a national leader in producing African-Americans who enter medical and pharmacy school, and who earn graduate degrees in biological and physical sciences.
The Xavier athletic program also emerged as one of the most successful among all historically Black colleges, claiming multiple conference championships in men’s and women’s basketball, tennis and track and field, while consistently ranking among the nation’s best in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Dr. Francis was appointed as the chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, which oversaw rebuilding and reinvestment in New Orleans and outlying regions impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2006, Dr. Francis was awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the highest awards presented to American civilians.
Greg Smith, author and “Lead Navigator”
Chart Your Course International
An Analogy of Failed Leadership
Gregory P. Smith
The Sinking of the Titanic Provides Lessons for Leaders
“We have struck iceberg … sinking fast … come to our assistance.” On a cold evening in 1912 that message came blistering across the airwaves. Before they tapped the last bit of Morse code, those words became the epitaph over the lives of the 1,200 people lost on the Titanic. The ship was doomed as it slowly sank into its watery grave. Why did the largest, most advanced ship of its time sink?
Those of us who study history or remember the movie may know why. It wasn’t the iceberg that caused the disaster. It is clear in my mind the real cause was failed leadership.
Leadership is Responsible — Leadership is responsible for everything the organization does or fails to do. Leadership is more than a wooden figurehead. A leader is not a position, job title, or in this case, the captain of the ship. Leadership is not about power, ego or pride. Leadership is ever-present, touching, motivating, talking, checking and removing barriers, training, preparing, breathing and moving about.
The Titanic’s ill-fated voyage was Captain E.J. Smith’s retirement trip. He was headed for the easy life. All he had to do was get to New York. God only knows why he ignored the facts, why he disregarded seven iceberg warnings from his crew and other ships.
The Titanic still rests on the bottom of the ocean, but we can resurrect the truth and apply a few lessons learned to help us become better leaders.
The Biggest Is Not the Best — Today’s businesses must change course quickly. It took over 30 seconds before the Titanic turned away from the iceberg, but by then it was too late. The larger an organization becomes, the greater its inflexibility. The more difficult and cumbersome it is to steer, to direct and to change course. Large businesses soon grow into huge bureaucracies where rules, regulations, policies, procedures and “I need permission to make a decision” become the norm.
Rank Has Its Privileges? -- Ranking is good for command and control, but not good for change and innovation. Ranking people limits their potential. Today, businesses rank and classify people — sometimes unintentionally. Whether it is reserved parking spaces for the privileged or being categorized as blue collar, white collar, temporary, part-time, those with cubicles or those with offices, the results are the same. Clear the lines between the classes and make everyone feel they are rowing in the same direction, for the same purpose. In a disaster, everyone is equal.
The Truth Changes — The Titanic was unsinkable, so they thought. The ship designers were so confident in their ship they only had enough lifeboats for half the passengers. The thinking that made us successful yesterday will cause us to fail tomorrow. Our unlearning curve must be greater than our learning curve if we are going to succeed.
Technology Makes a Poor Substitute for Authentic Leadership — When technology fails, leadership must prevail. Years before the Titanic’s voyage Captain Smith said, “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.” Many businesses today have placed the wrong people in charge. They are not leaders, but managers. So when disaster strikes, who is going to step up and lead? Or will your technology cause you to shipwreck and pull you under?
Leadership is About Training and Development — As the stern of the Titanic lifted out of the water, the crew and passengers struggled with the lifeboats. There had been no drills, no rehearsals, and the crew stood unfamiliar with their responsibilities. The boats were improperly loaded and only one went back to try to recover survivors. A good leader helps people improve their skills so they can become more productive.
What Lies Below Is More Destructive than What Is On Top — The greatest dangers lie unseen below the surface. That night in 1912 the water was smooth like glass — and deceptively dangerous. The iceberg lurked below. Like steel fangs, it tore at the rivets along 300 feet of the Titanic’s hull. Those below, the crew and steerage, felt and saw the damage first. Like a gasping breath, the steam billowed above as chaos reigned below. Then and now, those who know what’s wrong with your “ship” are those below decks. Those people on the frontline usually have the best ideas and solutions to your problems. Consider asking them for their ideas and suggestions before catastrophe strikes.
Leadership Looks Beyond the Horizon — A good “Captain” is constantly on the lookout for shifting trends, submerged rocks, storms and icebergs. Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton identified and met a need while other retailers did not. Apple saw the need for the iPod while others were still happy with CD players. The vision of the Sony Walkman existed in Akio Morita’s mind well before it entered the mind of the competition. Get the picture? Be on the lookout, scanning the horizon for the next wave of change instead of waiting for it to hit you in the face.
“HBCUs are a source of accomplishment and great pride for the African American community as well as the entire nation. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, defines an HBCU as: “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.” HBCUs offer all students, regardless of race, an opportunity to develop their skills and talents. These institutions train young people who go on to serve domestically and internationally in the professions as entrepreneurs and in the public and private sectors.”
… U.S. Department of Education …
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