A recent report says the country’s 107 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are on the brink of a “financial collapse,” and they must operate fast to avoid it. In history, HBCUs has always been underfunded and underresourced compared to majority institutions. So it should be easy to imagine when PWIs (predominantly white institutions) experience a storm they could probably survive it. But for Black colleges, when an economic decline occurs, “HBCUs go from cheddar to nothing,” says Marybeth Gasman, a University of Pennsylvania education professor.

At least that is precisely what happened when Barack Obama and the White House decided to make changes to the Parent PLUS loan in fall 2011, forcing many students to abandon their studies the next fall in 2012. According to one report, “Morehouse University, for example, was suddenly thrown into a financial crisis in 2012 after the PLUS credit changes.” But what can be done to help HBCUs that annually graduates 20% of Black students from almost every state in the nation? Gasman says that HBCUs are “doing the work a lot of institutions aren’t willing to do,” and believes people should better understand the importance and value of these institutions: “HBCUs provide an environment for students who need to feel empowered and need to feel nurtured in their learning environment.”

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