Last week President Barack Obama announced a proposal that would make tuition at community colleges free for ‘serious’ students seeking to better their lives by obtaining an education. But how will this proposal affect the country’s 107 historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs)?
“I applaud the president’s efforts to assist students with their education, particularly at no cost, given the economy and increasing cost of higher education,” said Frank Pogue, President of Cheyney University.
Supporters of Obama’s latest course of action points to the potential pipeline from community college directly to Black colleges, and that more so than not, students will be more academically prepared heading to a four-year college and straddled with less debt.
In addition, supporters also believes that this proposal will only boost previous agreements made by some community colleges and HBCUs administrations who have already partnered together to tackle specific issues, in particular student debt.
From The Root, “The problem is that, historically, many people who earn community college degrees don’t go on through college. So HBCUs could be pioneers in changing that as a major gateway for opportunities in higher education. That could boost our enrollment in the long run if we do this right.”
For HBCUs, with the challenges in recruitment and retention, this could be an excellent way ensure the survival and the thriving of HBCUs in years to come.
But a potential negative could be the Federal government itself.
Those who questions the president’s proposal to make community colleges “free for everybody who is willing to work for it” believes that the free tuition plan could create some financial hiccups for students wanting to move forward to college from community colleges:
“The way the proposal is currently constructed, transfer students will exhaust most of their Pell Grant money before they’re admitted into a four-year college,” says Micah Ali, President of the Compton Unified School District. “…However, only 15 percent of students who start at a two-year public college receive a bachelor’s degree within six years.
“For more-promising results, higher-caliber students would have to defer a four-year college to attend community college, or community colleges would have to improve their academic support and rigor dramatically,” said Ali.