As college students across the country begin settling into their dorm rooms and classes, many who attend historically black colleges and universities or HBCUs are forced to drop out of school.
Thanks to new rules governing how parents qualify for the federal PLUS loan, thousands of students can no longer afford the full cost of tuition and fees. The changes, which took place in 2011, represent a tremendous difference and conducts credit history checks based on the past 5 years of an applicant’s credit history, rather than 90 days which was the process prior to 2011. In other words, if a parent has had a bankruptcy, repossession, foreclosure, or a charged off credit card account, their application for the PLUS loan will be denied.
According to the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, a non-profit organization representing the presidents and chancellors of historically black colleges and universities, more than 14,000 PLUS loan applications at HBCUs were rejected by the U.S. Department of Education last year. Last month, Morgan State University in Baltimore went on a fundraising drive in the hopes of raising $300,000 towards its emergency scholarship fund so that 300 undergraduate students can attend the college. The school hoped to raise the funds before the beginning of the fall semester, and has already experienced a 3 percent drop in enrollment due to Parent PLUS loan eligibility changes.
Many students who attend historically black colleges and universities come from low-income households whose parents relied heavily on the PLUS loan to pick up the slack with tuition, fees, and books. Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman, Marcia Fudge met with several university officials in Maryland and found that many parents’ PLUS loan applications were inexplicably rejected even though they had no significant financial changes from one year to the next. The presidents of Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, as well as leaders from other HBCUs have drafted letters to President Obama asking for a revision of the new law, citing the devastating effects that it has had on their budgets.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education has stated that meetings with HBCU presidents are underway and negotiations are taking place.