HBCU Students Seek More Avenues for Funding - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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hbcu1Audia Cook, a sophomore at Hampton University (No. 4 on the Black Enterprise Top 50 Colleges for African Americans list), passed up an opportunity to apply for an internship this summer as a pharmaceuticals sales representative with Blue Care Network of Michigan. She says waitressing will allow her a better chance to enroll next fall.

“Every year that I’ve attended Hampton, I’ve been late with my [tuition]. I’ve always had to register late. I’m going to be working this summer because I don’t want to go through what I had to go through with financial aid again,” says Cook, a pharmacy major from Detroit.

Despite working 36 hours a week at two jobs during the school year and borrowing money from friends and family, Cook still owed about $2,500 dollars at the beginning of her freshman and sophomore years. She says the stress of trying to stay in school caused her GPA to slip. Her plan is to save $1,000 dollars over the summer in case funds are still needed when her Pell Grant and loans aren’t enough.

According to a report, “Contemporary HBCUs: Considering Institutional Capacity and State Priorities,”  more than 70% of students who attend historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are classified as low income. Over the past couple of months, the economic climate has caused them additional strain. For example, 91% of Fisk University (No. 8 on the Top Colleges list) students receive some form of financial aid, and as a result of the country’s economic crisis, 11% of students at Fisk have withdrawn since August 2008.

“Seventy-five percent of those kids left because of funding issues,” says Hazel O’ Leary, president of Fisk and former U.S. Secretary of Energy.

Tuition, along with donations, make up the largest share of a school’s revenue base. Fisk, like many schools, has had to resort to budget cuts, but because HBCUs have fewer resources, the loss in scholarship money can be detrimental for students.

More help is coming from the federal government. President Barack Obama proposed a $2,500 American Opportunities Tax Credit, which allows students from low-income families who do not pay taxes to receive aid for college. Congress voted to increase Title III funding dedicated for public and private HBCUs by $85 million for the 2009 fiscal year. Obama wants to increase Pell grants to $5,550 for fiscal year 2010, up $200 from fiscal year 2009, while ending subsidized loans. Pell Grants are the only source of federal money students do not have to pay back.

This spring, for the first time in a few years, enrollment at Alabama A&M University increased.  “We think that students who were not able to come back in the fall came back in the spring,” says Juarine Stewart, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at the school. Stewart attributes the spring enrollment increase to an increase in Pell grant allotments.

But Hasan Jamil, assistant vice president of enrollment management at Texas Southern University, says that since Pell grants don’t cover 100% of tuition and fees, low-income students have to depend on loans. “People still have to rely on borrowing money whether it is from Uncle Sam or Bank of America,” he says.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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