Martin O’Malley, a Democratic presidential candidate, recently pitched his debt-free college plan to South Carolina’s seven historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The former Maryland Gov. said, “…the schools [HBCUs] have played an important role in higher education,” and pointed out an interesting characteristic about many students attending Black colleges: they “are the first in their family to go to college,” he said.
The plan will make “public universities debt-free in the next five years,” said O’Malley. With college affordability becoming a key talking point for O’Malley, he’s hoping to increase his popularity and attract more millennial voters.
The plan involves tying student-loan repayments to borrowers’ income, slashing tuition, expanding Pell grants, incentivizing colleges to help students graduate on time, and promoting online and other nontraditional learning models.
It’s a smart move on O’Malley’s part, since much of the conversation around making college affordable centers on how to expand access to populations who have traditionally been left out—students of color among them.
During a lunch with HBCU leaders, including reps from Benedict College and Allen University, O’Malley said, “[W]e must be mindful of their role, especially given the fact that greater numbers of those who traditionally attend historically black colleges and universities are the first in their family to go to college.”
He added: “They face greater economic burdens and come from families of more humble means. So in our plan we were very mindful of that, and as we continue to refine it, I think it important that we always link the cause of our community college to the cause and mission of our historically black colleges and universities.”
Tommy G. Meade Jr. is the Editor-in-Chief at HBCU Buzz. Follow him on Twitter.