By Daja Henry, Campus Contributing Writer
It was more than one year ago when Hillary Clinton unveiled her New College Compact, a plan aimed at making college more affordable for families earning less than $125,000 per year. Last week, however, she added more to that plan, incorporating a proposal of investing $25 billion into historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). If her plan works, it is likely to have an extremely positive impact on HBCUs across the nation.
Though Clinton’s plan would significantly lower the costs of education at black colleges, it would not make them completely free. Her goal is to work together with families to create a what she referred to in a 2015 Democratic primary debate as a “compact” in which “families contribute, kids contribute.” The plan assumes that the college student would work at least 10 hours per week to contribute to his or her education as his or her parents work to finance it as well.
“Together we make it possible for a new generation of young people to refinance their debt and not come out with debt in the future,” she said.
The details for the plan that would directly affect HBCUs are not as similar. Clinton’s current plan is to allocate federal funding to the universities matching that already provided by the state, invest more into minority-serving and low-income serving institutions, and with the costs cut by her investments, ensure that Pell grant recipients can use their grants on living expenses.
For all HBCUs, both public and private, Clinton’s plan to make college affordable would cut interest rates on loans, thus allowing people who have already taken out loans to refinance at the lower current rate. Finally, Secretary Clinton plans to endow 25 billion dollars to HBCU education.
HBCUs have been an integral part of the Black experience. Students like Howard’s sophomore political science student Justin Edwards hail them for providing safe spaces for intellectual Black thought.
“[HBCUs] enlighten African-Americans to the true narrative of this country.”
This narrative, Edwards says, helps Black students to identify and combat the forces working against us.
Statistically, HBCUs also maintain positive statistics. In 2015, Xavier University in Louisiana produced the highest number of Black medical students. This is nothing new to the black college community. Howard University’s Colleges of Dentistry, Pharmacy and Medicine graduate the majority of America’s black medical professionals.
Yet, despite Clinton’s big dreams for black campuses, many cannot forget her 1996 remarks in which she referred to Black youths as “superpredators.” Dallas high school senior and Black Lives Matter activist Eric Adejuwon is among them.
“There is no true concern,” he said. “She is using our comforts (things that blacks admire, love, or relate to) to pacify us so we can support her.” Justin Edwards echoed this sentiment, saying that Clinton’s plan may just be, “another ploy to get our [African-American] vote.”
Dr. Woodson Reed a professor in Howard’s Department of Political Science, however, is optimistic about Clinton’s concern for minority issues. On Clinton’s history, she said “much of her [Clinton’s] priorities are inclusion, education and serving the traditionally underserved and minorities. Although she is a Caucasian female, she may be sensitive to the needs of people of color.”
A final concern, voiced by both Adejuwon and Edwards, was where all of this money is coming from. Both stated that this makes Clinton’s plan seem unrealistic. Even with the proceeds from Clinton’s tax break cuts from oil companies, Edwards says, “there’s still a major deficit to address, as well as an ongoing conflict in Syria.”
Even in the election’s wake, many remain divided on whether or not a Clinton presidency would help or hurt HBCU students. One thing remains certain. Anything is better than a Trump presidency.