Since 2008, HBCUs have lost more than $300 million in tuition revenue due to changes in federal loan and grant programs. South Carolina State is symptomatic of the impact that many HBCUs face as a result of federal and state cuts to higher education budgets. The direct cuts to higher education is made more devastating by the effects of the recession which resulted in record home foreclosures and job loss by a large number of African American families.

The fact that the recession grew out of a mortgage crisis made recovery for black families even more daunting. Blacks hold a disproportionate amount of family wealth in home equity. When home prices collapsed, the good suffered right along with the greedy. The one asset on which many were counting to finance their children’s education — the family home — suddenly was under water through no fault of their own.

Black families lost half their net worth between 2004 and 2010, rendering them less able to contribute to the cost of college, either as parents or alumni. Job losses, unemployment and foreclosures in black communities doubled the national averages, and sometimes more. The recovery so far has been as unsatisfying as an eggless omelet — rising stock prices, but few good jobs.

South Carolina lawmakers and budget writers use the Mission Resource Requirement (MRR) to calculate the state’s appropriation to its public colleges and universities. The MRR formula ranks colleges and universities based on the relative importance of mission, programs of study and other factors. The MRR has a built-in bias in favor of technology, engineering, science, law and other critical disciplines.

The state should also consider that SCSU’s mission is also critical. It is also faulty to assume (as the MRR does) that the mission of educating lawyers, scientists and researchers, as USC and Clemson do, is intrinsically more valuable than investing in the education of students who attend South Carolina State University where students are more likely from disadvantaged backgrounds and more likely first-in-their families to attend college. Educating students from sometimes meager backgrounds, who often are first-generation college enrollees and whose families are less capable of financial support, is also a critical endeavor if South Carolina is to catch up with the nation.

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