Category Archives: Education

Two New Senate Bills Could Strengthen HBCUs

California Senator Kamala Harris sponsored one of two bills supporting HBCUs that passed the Senate.

California Senator Kamala Harris sponsored one of two legislative bills supporting HBCUs that passed the Senate.

By Free Radical

The US Senate passed two legislative measures that could be a major boon to the nation’s HBCUs.  The HBCU Propelling Agency Relations Toward a New Era of Results for Students Act, or simply known as the HBCU PARTNERS Act, would require federal agencies with relevant grants and programs to expand participation to make greater strides to include the nation’s HBCUs.  The bill, which was introduced by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and the nation’s only Black Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, will also require federal agencies to share their plans with Congress and track their progress.

Howard alum Kamala Harris, the junior Senator of California and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, also introduced the re-authorization of the HBCU Historic Preservation Program, which would provide federal funding to restore buildings and sites of historical significance on HBCU campuses.

Private organizations such as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have all pushed for these legislative measures.

In speaking about her sponsorship of the HBCU PARTNERS Act, Kamala Harris stated, “Our nation’s HBCUs are absolutely essential to preparing Black students for the jobs and challenges of the 21st century, and we must ensure that they have the resources they need to continue that mission.” She continued, “I’m thrilled that the United States Senate has passed this legislation to ensure the federal government is working hand in hand with HBCUs to keep them strong.”

Both will have to be approved by the House and President Donald Trump, who has at least given lip service to supporting HBCUs.

In February 2017, the newly elected president held a highly publicized (and criticized) summit of HBCU presidents where he spoke about their centrality to the nation’s higher education landscape and pledged support.

However, just months later he wrote that he would treat a program which helps HBCUs get low-cost loans “in a manner consistent with the (Constitutional) requirement to afford equal protection of the laws.” The assumption of the statement is that he would consider this provision as preferential and unconstitutional treatment for African-Americans based on race and thus may target this policy for elimination.

Report: Major Disparities in College Contributions

By Free Radical

Bennett College was recently saved from being closed by raising more than $8 million. This amount is miniscule to some of the nation's wealthest colleges.

Bennett College was recently saved from closure by raising more than $8 million. This amount is miniscule to some of the nation’s wealthest colleges.

As growing wealth inequality has been an ever-present feature of American society, the nation’s higher education system has followed this pattern.

New data from the Voluntary Support for Education Survey, published by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, show that twenty colleges account for 28% of all higher education donations. Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia all raked in over $1 billion, though collectively they only educate less than twenty thousand students.

The level of altruistic inequality was magnified as Bennett College, an all-women’s HBCU in Greensboro, North Carolina, had to recently launch a massive campaign to raise $5 million dollars just to keep its doors open. Though Bennett’s ability to raise more than $8 million was widely celebrated, even this amount is mere crumbs compared to the endowments of America’s richest universities.

“Large charitable donations to the richest schools is essentially the endpoint of a cycle that rewards wealth every step along the way,” said Ben Miller, the senior director of Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress.

A small cohort of select universities often draws its enrollment largely from the nation’s wealthiest families. Graduates have access to some of the most lucrative jobs in the world. They in turn have the resources to make disproportionately large donations to their alma maters. To some critics, it can often be a closed system.

Some, however, argue that huge donations to select colleges can have a trickle-down effect in society as these institutions are responsible for cutting edge research developments that extend beyond their campuses. Jonathan Meer, an economist at Texas A&M University considered, “If let’s say three decades from now [a major donation] leads to a cure for malaria or cancer treatment with a three-day course of pills, I think it would be very difficult to argue that that money maybe should have gone to a more immediate cause.”

Nonetheless, if only these universities continue to receive the lion’s share of donations, other institutions will never have the chance to make similar discoveries and their student bodies, who tend to be much more diverse, will remain a rich source of potential that is largely untapped.

Dept. of Education Rescinds Obama Civil Rights Guidelines

By Free Radical 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has spearheaded a commission that will repeal civil rights safeguards for students of color.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has spearheaded a commission that will repeal civil rights safeguards for students of color.

On Friday, a commission led by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded federal guidelines designed to protect students of color from discrimination.

The Federal Commission on School Safety recommended that schools no longer be held responsible or liable when they have disproportionate racial rates of student discipline. The provisions were passed by former President Barack Obama’s administration in 2014 in response to alarming rates of suspensions and expulsions of students of color.

In 2016, for example it was reported that Black girls are suspended at six times the rate of White girls.

The 2014 guidelines were intended to employ less harsh measures than punishments that required students to lose school time. The regulations were not binding but made school districts aware that they could be subject to federal civil rights oversight and penalties for disparate impact even if school rules on their face seemed nondiscriminatory.

Interestingly, the Federal Commission on School Safety ostensibly had nothing to do with civil rights but with school shootings. It was convened in response to February’s Parkland, Florida school shooting which left 17 children and staff members dead.

While the much publicized student led protests called for increased gun control, the commission said early that it would not do much on this front. Its report has made recommendations to allow parents and law enforcement officials to remove firearms from mentally disturbed persons. It also acceded to conservative demands by urging school personnel to carry firearms.

Since Obama’s 2014 guidelines were established, 50 of the nation’s largest school districts instituted reforms to be in compliance. Suspensions in the country have also declined, particularly for Hispanic students.

Another College Closing, This Time Locally Based Vatterott

Vatterott closed all of its campuses on Monday.

Vatterott closed all of its campuses on Monday.

By Free Radical

Area for profit college, Vatterott Educational Centers closed all of its campuses. Students and staff were seen exiting the campus with little answers on Monday.

In an open letter to students, Vatterott, which is based in Berkeley, cited financial restraints as the cause of its demise. The U.S. Department of Education “decided to significantly increase the restrictions on Vatterott’s participation in federal financial aid programs.”

Just last month, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges voted to revoke Vatterott’s accreditation. Particularly, the college failed to “demonstrate successful student achievement and by maintaining acceptable rates of student graduation and graduate employment.”

The open letter suggested that the Department of Education’s decision doomed Vatterott’s sale to the Education Corporation of America (ECA). Interestingly, ECA recently shuttered its campuses recently. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges suspended its accreditation in early December. The ECA has also struggled under major debt totaling nearly $50 million.

Like ECA schools which most famously featured Virginia College, Vatterott was known for its snazzy commercials which promised high paying careers to graduates. It specialized in culinary arts, automotive trades, and the health professions.

Local rapper Nelly also entered a partnership with Vatterott in 2011 to create the Ex’treme Institute for students interested in musical production.

Vatterott had campuses in Berkeley, Fairview Heights, St. Charles, Sunset Hills, and eleven more locations across the Midwest.

Several local schools have begun recruiting affected Vatterott students. While the Academy of Pet Careers has offered free tuition, Jefferson College, Ranken, and the St. Louis Community College has also promised admissions guidance. The St. Louis Community College has parked its mobile unit in the Express Scripts parking lot on Evans Avenue in Berkeley which is located across from the Vatterott College NorthPark campus.