Tag Archives: HBCU

The 2016-2017 HBCU Graduate Student Loan Report


There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. – P.T. Barnum

The most recent study on HBCU student loan debt by HBCU Money shows a continued trend in this our third installment of tracking the crisis at our nation’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities. Whatever the nation thinks of the overall student loan crisis, it pales in comparison to what is happening at HBCUs. America’s student loan flu is African America’s student loan pneumonia with no insurance.

To put it mildly, the HBCU student loan crisis continues to be complicated. Overall, less HBCU students are graduating with debt as a percentage, which is a positive thing. Although the cause of why that number continues to drop is very unclear. The other piece of the puzzle though is the amount of student loan debt HBCU students are graduating with is skyrocketing. In the five years since our original report, the median student loan debt for an HBCU graduate is up twenty percent. Over that same period, median student loan debt for those graduating from a Top 50 endowed college or university is up only six percent.

The results are paired against America’s 50 largest universities by endowment which varied by geography, public and private status, and school size similar to that of HBCUs. The Project on Student Debt by The Institute for College Access and Success reports that in America overall, “New data show that the average student debt for college graduates continues to climb but at a slower pace, according to a report released by the Institute for College Access & Success. Nationally, about two in three (65 percent) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2017 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $28,650, 1 percent higher than the 2016 average.”

Numbers in parentheses shows the comparative results from the universities of the 50 largest endowments:

Median Debt of an HBCU Graduate – $34,131 ($24,237)

Proportion of HBCU Graduates with debt – 86% (40%)

Nonfederal debt, % of total debt of graduates – 4% (26%)

Pell Grant Recipients  – 71% (15%)

Statistics show that HBCU graduates are almost 32 percent more likely to graduate with debt than the national average, this number is up from 28 percent a few years ago. As the nation continues to increase the percentage of graduates with debt, HBCUs are actually decreasing its percentage is a canary in the coal mine. Again, it is unclear what is causing the drop. HBCU graduates are an astonishing 115 percent more likely to graduate with debt than those graduating from a Top 50 endowed college or university, by far the worst number in our report’s history with the previous being 96 percent more likely three years ago and 93 percent more likely five years ago. A disturbing trend upwards if there ever was one. The percentage of HBCU graduates finishing with debt is down over four percent in the past five years, while Top 50 endowed college or university graduates have seen the percentage of graduates graduating with debt down over eleven percent.

In terms of the debt itself, as mentioned the median student loan debt is up over twenty percent since our inaugural report five years ago. Disparagingly, student loan debt for HBCU graduates is more than 40 percent greater than Top 50 endowed college and university graduates. This creates a number of socieoeconomic issues  for HBCUs themselves and for the graduates they hope will be able to benefit from education’s upward mobility in wealth accumulation.

Median Total Cost of Attendance – $22,866 ($66,623)

The cost of attending an HBCU should be an advantage for African Americans, but poor endowments and lack of familial wealth continue to negate the one primary advantage HBCUs have, cost. Despite costing almost three times more over a four year period, Top 50 endowed colleges and universities are managing to graduate those who finish with debt at about 9 percent of the total cost of attendance over that four year period. In contrast, for HBCU graduates, they are finishing with 37 percent of the total cost of attendance over the same period.

Three years ago in our second report we said this and it remains true here in our third report as well, “Unfortunately, HBCUs are caught between a rock and hard place in needing to desperately raise tuition to generate more revenue because of weak endowments, but doing so increases an already over-sized burden on their graduates long-term and making it even less likely they will become the donors that the institutions desperately need. It has become a vicious cycle and with so much of African America and America invested in the demise of HBCUs that it seems only a miracle will keep us from perishing.” Without transformative donations of the eight and nine figure variety on a more consistent basis, then it is hard to see the student loan debt load decreasing or even plateauing at this point. A somber reality in a world where education is becoming increasingly vital for upward mobility for individuals, families, and communities.

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Alabama A&M University Students Standout At APA’s 2018 National Planning Conference In New Orleans


“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem

This year’s American Planning Association in New Orleans was a success for both the organization and for the exposure that a set of Alabama A&M University students (pictured above) received who were in attendance.

American Planning Association’s history dates back to 1978 when the American Institute of Planners and the American Society of Planning Officials merged and decided to move forward under a united banner with the aim of, “organized exclusively for charitable, educational, literary and scientific purposes to advance the art and science of planning and the activity of planning — physical, economic, and social — at the local, regional, state and national levels.” Today, the website states that the organization’s current vision revolves around, “provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing our members with the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.” Something that is a vital exploration of HBCU towns and surrounding communities who are often highly undeveloped.

Alabama A&M, located in Huntsville, Alabama, like many rural HBCUs is a flagship institution in the halo geography of its location. Huntsville is home to almost 200 000 residents along with a strong NASA presence. affordable housing, the future for Huntsville could be extremely bright – and therefore Alabama A&M impact on the area could also be . However, who will ultimately play a role in shaping Huntsville’s future? Hopefully, with a strong planning program like the one being developed at AAMU, it will be their alumni who will sit in public office and private firms and shaping the future and influence of the city. Ultimately, a benefit to the institutional capital of Alabama A&M University.

The APA annual conferences and workshops provide intellectual discourse on what is shaping communities is often attended by the who is who among public and private interests looking to get a glimpse into the future of how to provide the assets that will allow them to continue to grow and flourish. Given that HBCUs and the towns they reside in, especially in rural areas, maybe the last bastion of fighting gentrification and building sustainable African American communities, it is vitally important for HBCUs, their professors, and students especially continue to be present.

We were able to catch up with Tayla Solomon, a rising junior at Alabama A&M and Urban Planning major with a minor in Political Science,  who was one of the Bulldogs in attendance at the conference and got her to share her thoughts on attending:

What made you decide to major in Urban Planning? I decided to major in urban planning when I visited spring ‘16. My college counselor, Paula Dofat, made it possible for me and another classmate to drive to AAMU from Baltimore. I knew I wanted to major in something that not only caught my attention but would be if a great impact to the world in many ways.

Was this your first time attending the APA conference? Yes, this was my first planning conference. I’m excited to start fundraising for the next one.

Was Alabama A&M University the only HBCU present that you are aware of? If so, do you think it is important for more HBCUs to be present in the organization and conference? If so, why? AAMU was not the only HBCU at the conference. But there are a limited amount of HBCU’s that are accredited in urban planning. HBCU’s make up a small number in most conferences and most do not have the funds to participate.

What was the most important take away for you from this conference? The most important thing I took away from the conference was to network. There are thousands of people who share the same interest in you and they are also willing to help you and work with you. Once you step out of your comfort zone you will become unstoppable in whatever you put your mind to.

Did you have a favorite workshop that you attended and what was it on? I cannot remember my favorite one exactly but it talked about making vacation area sustainable for long term housing.

Lastly, what is your dream pursuit within the field of planning? My dream is to ensure better living conditions in impoverished cities. I hope to get a chance to work in every field of planning, mainly housing, environmental, and transportation.

If you want to donate to Tayla Solomon and the other Urban Planning students to attend more conferences, please contact: Ms. Heidi Weaver, Secretary, Tel: 256-372-5426, heidi.weaver@aamu.edu

HBCU Money™ Turns 6 Years Old


By William A. Foster, IV

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

The path to success has never been a straight line. That is true in anything we hope to accomplish in life. For HBCU Money, growing out of our infancy into a mature company has been a painstaking process to say the least. As we turn 6 years old, there are a lot of questions that are at the forefront of this journey that we are in the process of answering.

It is my belief that for the first time since we started, we maybe gifted the resources needed to truly grow and mature as a media asset to the HBCU community and to the financial journalism community. I purposely quieted our ranks last year as we published very little. This year may prove to be more of the same as ensure a clarity of the path in which we will move forward, but we will be heard from. It iss a chance to settle the spirit of our offices and take a step back and truly understand what needs to be done going forward to get us to where we truly want to be with this medium.

I am steadfast in the future of HBCU Money being an important voice in how our institutions and their stories are told. Thank you to all who continue to support that mission.

The Conundrum Of HBCUs & American Campus Communities


Glorious shall be the battle when the time comes to fight for our people and our race. – Marcus Garvey

It is often preached that one of the major obstacles to African American economic development is the inability for the African American dollar to circulate within the community. This is often viewed on an individual level by where African Americans shop or eat, but what about at the institutional level? Do African American businesses and institutions like HBCUs also have a role to play in the circulation of the dollar? The answer is without a doubt, yes. Perhaps even more so and more impactful than anything individuals can do. Yet, it seems that when it comes to real estate development and student housing, specifically HBCUs have missed a golden opportunity to circulate millions of dollars within the African American economic ecosystem. To be more blunt, they have failed. That land development is not more revered is somewhat remiss given the lore of the 40 acres and a mule legacy within our communities, but our lack of strategic integration has become others opportunities.

American Campus Communities is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that was co-founded in 1993 by Bill Blayless. Its primary developments are as their name suggest focused on college and universities both on and off campus and primarily housing with some retail mixed in. They have built 206 developments spread across 96 colleges of which 11 have been built on 7 HBCU campuses. Prairie View A&M University, which has a twenty year relationship with ACC,  has the most with four developments with the most recent one opening in 2017. ACC as they are known by their ticker symbol is publicly traded with a market capitalization of $6.1 billion and annual revenue of almost three-quarters of a billion dollars. They have a unique niche in the campus housing development space. However, the story does not simply end there.

If HBCUs are going to do business with developers that are not African American and more importantly HBCU alumni, then there should be something that compels them to do so. A company with an outstanding track record for diversity, a stake of the company in their endowment portfolio, etc. Yet, further examination of American Campus Communities leaves serious questions about exactly who is making the decisions to use them for HBCUs. Of the company’s executive team, senior officers, and board of directors there is not one African American present and no HBCU alumni present either. In fact, there are no ethnic minorities period on the aforementioned groups and only a handful of women. What are decisions like this saying to our community that we so passionately claim to be saying we have the interest of? Are we to believe that there are no African American real estate developers who we trust or are worthy of such projects?

Don Peebles, Sharon Johnson, and Quintin Primo, three African American real estate developers with a combined net worth of almost $2 billion, have developed multi-faceted real estate development corporations and are nationally known certainly would seem more than capable of handling the multi-millions worth of development that happens at HBCUs. There are likely hundreds if not thousands of local African American developers as well like Sharone Mayberry in Houston, Texas who renovated Unity Bank, the only African American owned bank in Texas, and is leading the efforts of renovation in Houston’s historic Third Ward.

It is hardly a surprise that some of these HBCUs are being directed who to use or even having it chosen for them as six of the seven HBCUs who have ACC developments are state schools with Clark Atlanta University being the one private school. Being a public university means that public politics from the gubernatorial office and state politicians have a heavy influence on who receives government and public contracts for work throughout the state. This probably comes with a concerted lobbying effort by ACC to select politicians who make the decisions. The autonomy that state/public schools among the smaller schools (see HBCUs) often marginalizes their decision making while the state’s flagships tend to have the political capital to leverage their own autonomous decisions as it relates to almost every facet of their strategic decision making.

To be clear, this is not a suggestion that all American Campus Communities needs to do is add a token African American to their executive team or board and all is right in the world. That would still not create institutional circulation of the African American dollar and ultimately that is what this is about. If embracing the true circulation and creating a multiplying effect it would take HBCUs concerting with African American financial institutions to sell the bonds that would raise the funds for such construction, then taking that funding and having a request for proposals that ensured HBCU engineers, architects, and developers were a healthy percentage of those who were vying for the bid. Something akin to the Rooney Rule that the NFL uses in ensuring minority coaches get interviewed for head coaching positions that come available. The fact that HBCUs do not seem to be making a more vigorous effort to do this is troublesome.

Time and time again, African American institutions, be it HBCUs, churches, or businesses operate in their own bubble and are not more purposeful in integrating themselves, which makes the dollar within our communities even more difficult to circulate and therefore antagonistic to our institutional economic development. Alumni must deepen their resolve to be involved in not only fundraising for HBCUs, but auditing where those dollars go once they are received. It would be prudent if alumni demanded accountability of just how much of the annual services and products were bought from businesses owned by HBCU alumni. There is a long way to go in moving the needle on circulating our dollars more effectively, but a $10 meal at an African American restaurant versus hundreds of millions in development deals between HBCUs and our own real estate developers is a stark difference in getting us there.

The HBCU Endowment Feature – Elizabeth City State University


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School Name: Elizabeth City State University

Median Cost of Attendance: $18 786

Undergraduate Population: 2 760

Endowment Needed: $1 036 972 320

Analysis: Elizabeth City State University needs approximately a $1 billion endowment for all of its undergraduates to attend debt free. The university is located in the northeast part of North Carolina. In a state with an abundance of higher education institutions it can be extremely difficult to standout. It also does not help that ECSU is not on the HBCU “corridor” of I-85/I-95 going through the states of North Carolina and Virginia. The northeast part of North Carolina is a more isolated geography of the state. As in most cases like this there is a bit of the gift and the curse attached to such a reality. By being isolated it can have an intimate advantage in recruitment in the northeast part of North Carolina and very rural parts of southeastern Virginia. The disadvantage of course is beyond those areas it will have a difficult time not being in the HBCU corridor, and therefore will have a hard time getting students outside of its most intimate regions. A cause for concern given the drop in enrollment the school has seen lately. As noted with public university endowments, the size of the alumni base is a mixture of student body size and graduation rates. This formula plays an integral role in the health of the endowment. A declining student body size is a danger to the long term financial stability of a college’s endowment primarily because historically only 10-15 percent of alumni give back nationally. The number is even smaller among HBCUs. Currently, Elizabeth City State University is reported to have a $4.5 million endowment or equal to 0.45 percent of its needed endowment. A serious red flag for long-term stability which lends to some of the issues of the school’s current financial issues. The school has an opportunity to reduce itself down to a healthier size that could allow it could to obtain the financial health it needs to potentially grow at a more steadied pace. It also much find a way to infuse itself along the state’s coastline African American population. The real question is will that be enough. Ideally, ECSU needs to have a student body at least triple its current size if it wants to seriously expand its alumni base within the coming decade.  It is clear they are going to have to pick up the pace of their endowment and capital campaigning to survive tomorrow, otherwise we could be seeing some of the turmoil in Virginia spillover into North Carolina with Elizabeth City State University potentially being the first casualty.

As always it should be noted that endowments provide a myriad of subsidies to the university for everything from scholarship, faculty & administration salaries, research, and much more.