Monday, July 29, 2013



A few months ago I read an article discussing the cost of state colleges and how if some of the colleges within a system were consolidated that it would save the state money.  For example in North Carolina there is UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, UNC Pembroke, UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro, you get the picture. So instead of all of these Universities under one system the state would close a couple of them and incoming students would have to choose one of the Universities that were left after the cut.  Although this idea is provocative enough, what made me pause was that somehow HBCU’s were added to the conversation.  HBCU stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and I personally went to the one and only South Carolina State University.  The reason that I paused when the article mentioned HBCU’s is because these colleges and universities had nothing to do with the concept that the article was speaking of and it just seem like HBCU’s were added just as a suggestion that some of these schools whether they are part of the system or not can be shut down too because they are not needed.  I don’t usually step outside of financial literacy advice and I am not going to in this post either, but this article made me start thinking that HBCU’s and the students that attend them have the opportunity to be taken out of this conversation altogether and it starts with financial literacy.

Why financial literacy?  Majority of HBCU’s don’t have large endowments and they depend on donations from alumni along with other resources, but with alumni comes the issue and also the solution.  HBCU’s mostly consist of African American students who come from lower to upper middle income families.  Usually they are able to attend college through student loans, grants and scholarships (academic and athletic) and without this aid a lot of the students would not be able to afford higher education.  So here is how financial literacy can take HBCU’s out of the “elimination conversation.”
If majority of students at these universities and colleges depend on financial aid then one financial mistake small or large could lead to these students dropping out of college.  A student getting a credit card owing as little as $300 can cause them to drop out of college because they have no way of paying that debt off.  Students can lose a grant and that could lead to dropping out.  I met one student at North Carolina Central that before the fall semester even started she found out that she had lost an $800 grant and she did not know how she was going to get the money so she could start classes the next week.  She asked her mother and her mother could not help because she was struggling herself and just like that here was a student with a bright future at risk of dropping out.  I know that there are a lot of stories just like this one at HBCU’s all around the country and the result is the same. Dropping out.  The student dropping out not only hurts them, but it takes future alumni dollars out of the system making the institution vulnerable.  All universities and colleges must start to educate their students on how to handle money so that students can finish college and attain great paying careers.  HBCU’s much teach students not to spend their refund check, not to get credit cards, and not worry about a credit score because little mistakes like these can lead to a student being financially unstable.

I am sure that there are administrators, professors, student affair professionals, deans and so on who are wondering why should we focus on financial literacy?  Because you can’t afford not to!  The goal of financial literacy is not only to keep retention rates up, but it is truly to benefit the HBCU after the student graduates.  The 2012 college graduate left school with an estimated $26,000 in student loan debt.  This does not include the possibility that the student also had credit card debt or a car loan.  If it is not taught in college that DEBT SUCKS and that once you graduate that you need to pay off ALL debt as fast as you can then you end up with generation after generation that just lives a little bit better than paycheck to paycheck.  Alumni that live like this financially DO NOT AND CAN NOT give back to their alma mater leaving the alma mater to fend for itself.  This may not have been a problem in the past, but with state governments more and more cutting back in the budget when it comes to higher education the dependence on donations from alumni will only become greater.  So as you can see current and future alumni are the issue but they are also the solution, but it starts with financial literacy being stressed to them while they are students.  Trust that not a lot of higher ed institutions are taking on this mission and maybe they don’t have to, but as a HBCU alumni I am here to tell you that you can’t afford not to.  It is time to get off the chopping block and to show the world that you are not going ANYWHERE!

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