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The State of HBCUs: Clark Atlanta University

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 9/20/2013, 2:43 p.m.
In the L.S. Epps Gymnasium, overflowing with students, faculty and scholars, Carlton E. Brown, Ph. D., Clark Atlanta University’s president ...
Carlton E. Brown, Ph. D. enters his 5th year as Clark Atlanta University’s president. His address Tuesday, September 17 focused on the challenges ahead for the school. Photo by Curtis McDowell.

For White, it is all about forging a rapport that makes alumni comfortable with giving back, while also letting them understanding the state of their institution academically.

Clark Atlanta is also seeking different ways to increase institutional aid via a scientific approach that will see how likely a student is able to academically persist and financially afford his or her education. This will also include finding other creative ways in measuring parent’s credit worthiness, so that it does not become impactful in a detrimental way. The criterions are based on the following factors: grades, financial ability to persist through the program, and personal environment adaptability.

“By instituting such intrusive advisement, potentially, we can react on that front,” Clark Atlanta Dean of Enrollment Management Dwight Sanchez said. “For instance, we can target students taking out the maximum amount of loans available per semester, and focus on making such student financially literate.”

Former Clark Atlanta student Jessika Morgan, who transferred to Georgia State University in 2009, may have benefitted from this new system.

“I went to Clark Atlanta because being around a predominantly black community was not an experience I had growing up in California,” Morgan, a first-generation college grad, said.

With tuition (plus room and board) totaling more than $30,000 a year, and limited financial aid, she concluded the cost of education at the private institution was too costly.

“Even though it was only my first two years, I wasn’t getting what I was paying for, as far as academics,” she explained. “But I wanted to stay at Clark Atlanta, because of the network I had built there.”

Morgan left for and graduated from GSU, where her educational cost was nearly a third less than Clark Atlanta.

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Students on CAU campus. Photo by Vincent Christie.

The majority of students like Morgan that attend Clark Atlanta rely on the Parent PLUS Loan Program. The federal government gives that loan to help cover whatever is the full amount of educational cost is for a student.

Given the regulation changes in how one is approved now, that has impacted the African-American populous so much so that they cannot really afford to come to Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, or Spelman. Thus, a public institution presents, possibly, a more financially suitable situation for them to continue their education.

On the day the U.S. House of Representatives sent a bill on student loan rates to President Barack Obama for a signature, a group of HBCU presidents sent a letter to the White House requesting a meeting, citing the “harmful effects this policy change has had on access to college nationally, its disproportionate impact on the HBCU community over the past year and its devastating impact on student enrollment in the coming year, and beyond.”

The presidents called the policy “an abuse of the Department’s discretion and represents a failure on the part of the Department to negotiate in good faith with the higher education community — and with the HBCU community in particular.”

The new rates are to be determined by the financial markets. Loan rates will be fixed for the signed year, but may vary from year to year, depending the economy. This fall alone, undergraduate students face 3.9 percent interest rates on subsidized and unsubsidized loans, graduate students face 4.9 percent and parents loans are at 6.4 percent. It caps interest rates at 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent for graduate students, and 10.5 percent for parents.