Category: Urban Ed Written by The Grio
President Barack Obama (C) signs an executive order in the East Room of the White House February 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. Obama delivered remarks and signed an executive order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities during the event. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The Department of Education recently announced it is providing $228 million in grants to 97 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in 19 states. The funds will be used for campus expansion, counseling programs, science equipment and faculty training.
“HBCUs have made enduring, even staggering contributions to American life despite the steep financial challenges many have faced,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The grants will help these important institutions continue to provide their students with the quality education they need to compete in the global economy.”
The announcement is welcome news for financially challenged institutions who, like the black community as a whole, have been hurting during the U.S. economic downturn. In addition, the grants will ease the concerns of critics who believe President Obama has not done enough to help the black community, his most ardent supporters.
Nevertheless, with the collapse of Morris Brown College— due to financial mismanagement, corruption, financial aid theft and foreclosure—and the overall precarious fiscal state of HBCUs, some are wondering if these schools can be trusted to properly manage their finances.
Among the historically black institutions facing economic woes are Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial University. Money troubles have translated into accreditation issues and warnings for Fisk University, Tennessee State, Bennett College, Tugaloo College, Saint Paul’s College, Southern University, Virginia Union University, Grambling State University and others. Loss of accreditation affects a university’s reputation, fundraising and access to financial aid— which is crucial to the well-being of HBCUs.
In addition to Morris Brown, Alabama A&M University and Florida A&M have faced financial accountability problems, including financial aid theft.
Formed after the Civil War in order to provide the formerly enslaved with access to education, HBCUs serve an often marginalized, disadvantaged population. Typically, they accomplish this with less funding than their resource-rich white counterparts, with whom they must compete for funding.
Although the 105 HBCUs account for 3 percent of all U.S. colleges, they enroll 12 percent of black college students, produce 23 percent of all black college graduates, 40 percent of the nation’s black science graduates, and 60 percent of blacks holding engineering degrees. Further, these institutions are responsible for generating 50 percent of all African-American professionals and public school teachers, 75 percent of African-American Ph.Ds, 80 percent of black federal judges, and 85 percent of all African-American doctors.
Leadership in the HBCUs is at a crossroads, with vacancies for the position of president open at 16 colleges. According to John S. Wilson, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the abnormally high vacancies are part of a problem that has been simmering for years, with an uphill battle in attracting quality leaders, but the immediate issue is the state of the economy.
“The reasons probably vary according to the institutional diversity in the HBCU sector, but it is not unreasonable to think that many of the vacancies are tied to the general stress of the economy and the constraints it places on people’s ability to both contribute to and pay for higher education. Simply put, a tighter economy intensifies the quest to remain competitive,” he said.
With smaller endowments and 50 percent lower tuition ($10,000 less than predominantly white colleges) due to the disproportionately low income populations they serve—not to mention higher dropout risks due to economic and academic reasons—HBCUs are feeling the pinch. Reliant on government funding, these schools have been negatively impacted by recessionary budget cuts. In 2011, the United Negro College Fund experienced a cut of more than $25 million in funding for strengthening historically black colleges and universities.
According to a survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, Howard University — the best-endowed black college — ranks 132nd in the nation with a $371 million endowment.
Ohio State has an endowment of over $2 billion dollars, which is far more than twice the combined endowment of the schools of the historically black Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
Further, while Harvard University’s endowment is $19 billion, the combined endowment of all HBCUs is only $1.6 billion.
Some HBCUs place their already limited endowments at risk when they fail to attack the problem of hazing-related deaths on campus. Lawsuits related to hazing incidents can exact a high financial cost by eating into small college endowments. In addition, hazing drives away long-term donors, ruins the school’s reputation and costs HBCUs revenue when students decide to attend another school for fear of hazing.
“Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have suffered disproportionately in the current financial crisis. The difficult situations at these institutions have many causes, but they stem in large part from the commitment of HBCUs to serving disadvantaged students and from the history of underfunding and discrimination that disadvantages HBCUs themselves,” said Marybeth Gasman, associate professor of higher education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.
According to Gasman, tight budgets and low matriculation levels have caused HBCUs to take drastic steps to stay alive. Leaders in these schools must make smart decisions, she added, and allocate more resources to faculty salaries and tenure, and student scholarships to remain competitive. Gasman also urged black schools to avoid mission creep by focusing on providing a solid education and empowering a new generation of leaders. Institutions, she said, must also commit resources to train faculty and staff in grant writing, including federal grants, and encourage partnerships with majority institutions. Meanwhile, federal and state government and private donors can assist with infrastructure support to these colleges, which would attract more alumni support and build endowments.
Wilson said that HBCUs are viewed as “symbols of the past” rather than “forces for the future.” These institutions, in his view, need solid leaders and not just managers — leaders who speak out on issues and possess a vision, are fundraising savvy, and are able to shape and grow the institution and work with a variety of stakeholders. He also suggests that HBCUs have difficulty attracting students and funding because they are invisible. They have failed to articulate their “institutional value,” who they are and what they bring to the table, including a commitment to black excellence, a dedicated faculty and a culturally and emotionally supportive environment. This comes at a time when, unlike 40 years ago, many black students may no longer view HBCUs as their best option.
If HBCUs are fiscally faltering, then their students are as well. For example, of the 116 colleges and universities with a student loan default rate of 10 percent or more, 42 percent are HBCUs. Jarrett L. Carter of HBCUDigest.com has suggested that in order to stay afloat and increase fundraising and alumni giving during lean times, HBCUs should train all of their students in business entrepreneurship. “But if HBCUs condition students to think as owners and not workers, the effort will yield the alumni who own property and business brands that will fund their respective alma maters, and develop the next generation of entrepreneurs that will create a golden age of self-sufficiency and unlimited growth for Black America,” Carter said.
Some HBCUs are defining themselves as “small, private liberal arts” or “multicultural, comprehensive” colleges — in addition to their mission serving the black community — as a means of niche marketing. Others are combating dwindling enrollment and funding shortfalls by recruiting non-African-American students.
“We know HBCUs have value and this is the ideal time to demonstrate that value. The opportunity to choose new leadership can be good and hopeful,” Wilson noted. “The current challenges facing many HBCUs can often be traced to decades of decisions made or not made by HBCU boards. The question is: Do today’s trustees have what it takes to imagine, sift, and select leadership for a necessarily new future?”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 10:24
Category: Urban Ed Written by HBCU Digest
The Washington Post last week profiled Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel services, one of the iconic traditions in all of HBCU culture. For its spiritual impact on students and community, and its platform for leading Black voices across social, political and cultural planes, the Rankin Chapel services remain a strong link between HBCU necessity past and present.
Similar stories are present at Black colleges throughout the nation. The Rankin Chapel, along with Tougaloo’s Woodworth Chapel, Sisters Chapel at Spelman and Allen Chapel at Paul Quinn are campus centers for spiritual enlightenment and community mobilization. In an age where morals and values are overwhelmed by popular culture and negative images of HBCUs, the value of the HBCU chapel is more pressing than ever.
Given the historic link between church and HBCU, is there room for the HBCU chapel to reemerge as the campus “living room?” Through HBCU chapels, can we reinvigorate the partnership between Black colleges and Black churches to foster a new commitment for financial and ethical support? Schools like Saint Paul’s College and Morris Brown College are facing critical times over the next few months, but while churches have lent support in the form of checks, have they championed for these schools from their pulpits and media reach?
How can spirituality and faith-based community be reconnected to HBCU culture, to better benefit school and student? Howard, over the 120 years of its chapel’s existence, seems to have the best command of the partnership. Can others follow suit before it’s too late?
Last Updated on Monday, 10 September 2012 12:01
Category: Urban Ed Written by CBSNEWS
(MoneyWatch) College tuition costs have risen five to eight percent annually over the past ten years, far faster than the average wage growth for American workers. As a result, parents and students have continued to accumulate more college debt, while their means for repaying it have waned.
Along with factoring in the soaring cost of higher education, people need to gauge the impact of inflation on their college savings. That puts a premium on saving and investing now in order to grow your school savings at a rate that meets or exceeds the spiraling cost of college.
One of the more effective places to start saving and investing for future college costs is a 529 education savings plan (named after the applicable section of the IRS code). These plans are popular and widely used. Every state offers at least one 529 savings plan, and a total of more than $135 billion is invested in roughly 7 million such plans.
The CollegeAmerica 529 plan, sponsored by the Commonwealth of Virginia, has the most assets -- about $29 billion in its advisor-sold plan, which contains low-cost investment options offered by American Funds.
The next largest 529 plan by assets is the NY 529 College Savings Plan, with about $11 billion. It offers low-cost investment funds managed by Vanguard.
A 529 savings plan is a simple way to save and invest money for your child's future education. Its key benefits:
Money invested grows tax-deferred, as with an IRA
Parents own the account, so the child can't control or access it
If a child doesn't go to college, parents can roll the account over to another family member
Anyone can contribute
There are no income limitations to setting up a 529 plan
Most states have no age limit for when the money has to be used
529 savings plans are state-sponsored savings and investment programs. That is, the state sets up the plan with an asset management company of its choice. Individuals open a 529 account with that asset management company according to the state's predetermined plan features.
You are the owner of the account, and the child for whom the account is set up is the beneficiary. Typically you don't deal directly with the state, but rather with the asset management or investment company.
Generally, there are two types of 529s:
Prepaid tuition plans let you prepay tuition at a qualified educational institution at today's tuition rates.
Savings plans let you save and invest money in a tax-deferred account, which can be used to pay for education expenses at any college at a future date.
Despite these differences, the fundamental idea with both plans is that the amount saved today should grow at least as fast, or faster, than the rate of inflation of future education costs.
One concern with 529 plans is what can happen if the money isn't used for college. Funds withdrawn from 529 plans that are not used for education are taxed as income and also incur a 10 percent penalty tax.
But there is an important exception: If you do not use the money in a 529 plan because your child gets a scholarship, then the remainder of the 529 account can be rolled over to another sibling (or relative), or it can be cashed out by the beneficiary with no penalty other than the tax paid (at your rate) on the earnings. The same rule applies in the event of the child's death or disability.
Another concern is how a 529 plan account where your child is a beneficiary will affect her chances of qualifying for financial aid. But since 529 plan accounts are treated as assets of the parent, the assets in these accounts have a lesser impact on the family's expected contribution toward college costs before financial aid is awarded.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 14:02
Category: Urban Ed Written by Classesandcareers.com
College is the perfect storm for poor health. The very culture promotes it. You wake up at seven and grab a leftover slice of pizza for breakfast. You have a cheeseburger for lunch and numerous caffeinated drinks throughout the day. Then you go out to eat with friends have one too many alcoholic drinks. When you get home, you try to get some studying done. At two o’clock in the morning, you realize it’s futile and fall asleep.
So if the very lifestyle of college is against you, how can you still maintain your health? Well, first, know that it is possible. Second, let us give you these five helpful tips for managing your health while you’re in school:
1. Get enough sleep.
College = all-nighters. All-nighters = bad student performance. When you get less than eight hours of sleep, your brain misses out on two hours of REM sleep, during which your brain is supposed to integrate new information. That means, no matter how much you study, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your brain won’t retain the information you studied.
As contrary as it may seem to the college lifestyle, go to bed when you should. Try to plan your social activities so that they don’t conflict with sleep time. And definitely don’t use the time that you should be sleeping to catch up on studying. It is counter-productive.
2. Go easy on the junk food.
The average college student gains between three and 10 pounds between his freshman and sophomore year. This has been linked to poor sleeping habits (see below) and putting all the wrong stuff in your body. Food from vending machines, soft drinks, eating out at restaurants, and cheap fast food are all culprits. You buy this stuff because it’s cheap and available, and you are usually too busy to do real grocery shopping.
Our advice: if you have a kitchen or even a mini-fridge, take the time to go grocery shopping. You’ll find yourself choosing better foods and probably saving some cash. If you eat at an on-campus cafeteria, skip that extra helping triple-layer fudge cake in favor of an apple or a salad.
3. Drink responsibly.
For whatever reason, alcohol has been part of the college experience ever since colleges first came into existence. It’s woven into the very social fabric of college. In fact, according to one survey, college freshmen drink 5.7 drinks per week. Eighty-four percent of all students surveyed reported that they drank alcohol within the last year. Excessive alcohol usage can take a toll on your body and your brain, seriously inhibiting your ability to perform as a student.
Alcohol use has been linked to all sorts of maladies, like sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and heart problems, not to mention increased aggression and violence. Also, anyone who’s consumed too much alcohol knows that waking up the next day can be a challenge–a challenge you don’t need when you’re trying to get to your eight o’clock class on time.
To keep yourself free of these problems while you’re in school, if you choose to drink, drink moderately and then call it good. Your brain, your liver, and your grades will thank you.
4. Make time to exercise.
No matter who you are, nothing controls stress, depression, and the immune system like regular exercise. But when you’re “busy,” exercising feels expendable–you don’t get a grade for it and it doesn’t make you any money. But, in combination with everything we’ve already mentioned, failing to exercise can be a recipe for disaster.
You don’t need to get in an epic, three-hour power workout everyday to fulfill this requirement. All it takes is 30 minutes of good, solid cardio-vascular activity three or more times per week to keep your bones and muscles healthy, your weight down, and your mental health in check. Now that’s something you can squeeze into your packed schedule.
5. Manage your time proactively.
Stress can take a toll on any of the aforementioned areas. Dangerous stress levels are usually the result of poor management. You can lower your stress levels by pulling out the old calendar and planning out your daily activities, when you will finish that paper, when you will read that case study, and when you will make time for your friends. Time management lets you do a diagnostic on your life and assures you that everything is good. Your mind and body love the “everything-is-good” feeling.
Last Updated on Monday, 10 September 2012 11:13
Category: Urban Ed Written by Kiplinger.com
The sticker shock when you first see the bill for tuition, room and board, and all those nebulous fees is bad enough. With the excitement and stress that accompanies the move to college, it's easy to let down your guard and pony up the plastic for a whole lot of other expenses. Sure, you want what’s best for your child, but you don't have to say yes to every item on his or her wish list.
Of course, not all students' needs are the same -- students in engineering and medical studies, for example, may require new textbooks they’ll keep or a more powerful computer. But, generally speaking, here are 12 expenses campus life doesn't really require:
New textbooks. More and more universities are offering textbook rental programs to help students avoid paying unfathomable new-book prices. Check to see whether your university offers a rental program, which is most often available for the school's core-curriculum and prerequisite classes.
Save even more by comparison-shopping online for new and used textbooks for sale and for rent. You can even save some trees by licensing e-textbooks that you can access from your computer or mobile devices. Learn more in How to Cut Your Textbook Costs in Half – or More.
A high-end laptop or desktop computer. An inexpensive laptop or desktop should do the trick. Netbooks are cheap, but their small keyboards and still-slow processing speed won't make the grade for a student's first year in college. The updated Dell Inspiron 15R Intel Core i3 laptop is still our favorite powerful, portable and affordable laptop. It has a 15.6-inch screen, weighs 6.1 pounds, and has 6.5 gigabytes of memory and a 750GB hard drive. The Dell is available at Best Buy for $520 (a more powerful version with 8 gigabytes of memory and a 1TB hard drive sells for $620).
A printer. If you skip this, you'll save about $50 for a printer, $30 a pop for replacement ink and $9 per pack of paper. For less than $10, your teen could buy a flash drive instead, save his 20-page term paper on it and print the paper in the campus computer lab, which you may already be paying for. (Some schools include a technology fee in room-and-board costs -- $100 per semester in some cases.) Students may also have the option of sending files directly from their dorm room to a computer-lab printer. But make sure you ask about page limits and any printing fees.
A pricey smart-phone plan. Students may think that a smart phone -- especially an iPhone or a Droid -- is de rigueur to deal with the rigors of campus life, but contracts with data plans can run higher than $200 a month.
Fortunately, there are less-expensive, no-contract alternatives. Consider WalMart’s Straight Talk plan, which offers unlimited voice, texting and data for $45 per month and a variety of smart phones. If your kid texts more than talks, you might want to try Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk plans, which use Sprint's Nationwide Network. These plans come with unlimited messaging and data; 300 voice minutes per month is $35, while 1,200 minutes per month is $45. Unlimited minutes will cost $55 per month. Boost Mobile, which also runs on Sprint’s network, starts with a $55-per-month plan for an Android phone with unlimited talking, texting and data (make on-time payments for 18 months and the monthly price drops to $40).
Of course, if you have a family plan, you should consider if it’s worth keeping your child on it versus getting him a prepaid plan. To learn more, read Smart Ways to Save on Smart-Phone Plans.
Cable TV. Cut this additional expense by accessing a wide variety of current entertainment and news online. You can stream programs from your computer or a Web-enabled device, such as an Xbox 360 gaming console, a Playstation 3, a Wii or a TiVo:
--TV Shows. XfinityTV.com and Hulu.com, for example, let you stream TV shows free. You can also catch recent episodes of your favorite shows at the networks’ own sites. Hulu.com now offers Hulu Plus, which for $8 a month gives you access to seasons of more than 1,000 current and classic TV shows, thousands of movies (including films from the Criterion Collection) and limited commercial introduction in 720p high definition. College students can get a two-week free trial if they sign up with their .edu e-mail address.
--Movies. Netflix offers for $8 a month unlimited TV episodes and movies streaming online through a Web-enabled device.
--Sports. WatchESPN (formerly ESPN3.com) streams live broadcasts of professional sports, such as professional baseball, basketball, golf, soccer and tennis, and of course college basketball and football. You can stream WatchESPN content to an Xbox 360, but you must have an Xbox Live Gold membership, which starts at $5 a month, or $60 a year (same goes for streaming Netflix content with the Xbox 360).
A car. In a nine-month academic year, according to AAA, the average small sedan would rack up about $3,200 in expenses, including costs for gas, standard maintenance and insurance. Parking permits and any tickets or breakdowns would add even more to the bill. Keeping the car parked at home could lower insurance premiums, too (see VIDEO: Kids, Cars and College).
A credit card. The average freshman who has a credit card has nearly $755 in card debt, according to a recent study by Sallie Mae. To curb the frivolity of first-year credit card spending, Uncle Sam is now enforcing stricter credit card rules. Anyone younger than 21 is required to prove his or her ability to repay any debts or have a parent (or someone else 21 or older) co-sign the card application.
Help your student stay in the black by withholding your signature until he has a long track record of fiscal responsibility. A debit card is a good way to get started. For tips on how to discuss personal finance, see What College Students Need to Know About Money and How to Get Kids Motivated About Money Management.
High bank fees. Open an account for your child at a bank that is close to campus and has nationwide coverage. If your child uses an account with the hometown bank, she could spend up to $5 when she withdraws money from an out-of-network ATM. If she withdraws money, say, once a week, she could spend up to $260 a year on fees. Or consider opening an online checking account with a bank that doesn't charge ATM fees or that refunds ATM surcharges by other banks. Be sure to read the fine print: Some of these banks do not refund ATM fees beyond a certain amount, and some require the account holder to maintain a minimum account balance every month.
When choosing a bank, also find out how much it costs, if anything, to transfer funds online from your account to your student's. This will save you from having to mail checks. Another option is to open an account with a credit union that belongs to a surcharge-free network. Click here to locate one.
Overdraft protection. You now have the option when you open an account to opt out of overdraft protection. That means the bank either will not permit you to withdraw funds if your balance is too low or will ask whether you want to pay a $35 fee and proceed with the withdrawal. This is not a one-time decision; you can switch your preference if you decide you want the bank to cover overdrafts. Checks and recurring payments that cause you to overdraw the account are not covered even if you opt out, so you can still incur hefty overdraft fees.
A big meal plan. You’ve heard of the Freshman 15, so avoid loading up your child's meal account with enough money to feed the football team. Often, the money you spend on a meal plan does not roll over from year to year -- if you don’t use the money, you lose it. Best to start low and see how much your student eats. Many colleges give you the opportunity to replenish meal-plan funds midyear. You could also supplement your kid’s meal plan with gift cards to the local grocery (or pizza joint). Or you can buy gift cards at GiftCertificates.com.
Campus health insurance. If you have family health coverage, your child may still be covered under that plan when she goes to college. If your plan does not cover out-of-network costs, a campus health-insurance plan may be a more cost-effective option. Be careful, though: Some college policies have low coverage maximums, which could leave you with thousands of dollars in uninsured expenses. See Kids, College and Insurance for other options.
Private loans. The hefty price tag on higher education makes it hard to avoid student loans, but if at all possible, steer clear of private student loans. They usually carry variable rates (as opposed to the fixed rates of federal loans), have fewer repayment options and allow students to rack up high balances. (See Be Wary of Private Student Loans.)
You still have time to apply for federal student loans to cover the bills this school year. And look for scholarships -- they’re easier to get than you might think.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 September 2012 13:39
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