By Rev. Dr. Janette C. Wilson & Attorney Janice Mathis Esq.
Since 2008, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have lost more than $300 million in tuition revenue due to changes in federal loan and grant programs.
South Carolina State is symptomatic of the impact that many HBCUs face as a result of federal and state cuts to higher education budgets.
The direct cuts to higher education are made more devastating by the effects of the recession, which resulted in record home foreclosures and job loss by a large number of African American families.
The fact that the recession grew out of a mortgage crisis made recovery for Black families even more daunting. Blacks hold a disproportionate amount of family wealth in home equity. When home prices collapsed, the good suffered right along with the greedy. The one asset on which many were counting to finance their children’s education – the family home – suddenly was under water through no fault of their own.
The plight of HBCUs is due in part to the recession. The Great Recession has hit HBCUs across the nation hard. Black families lost hundreds of millions of dollars in family income and wealth during the recession, rendering them less able to contribute to the cost of college, either as parents or alumni.
The recovery was as unsatisfying as an eggless omelet – rising stock prices but no jobs. The job losses and foreclosures in the Black communities were double the national average in some states and more than double in others.
South Carolina State University (SCSU), like many other HBCUs, survives on enrollment, tuition, federal and state supports. There is currently a move by the South Carolina State Legislature to recommend closing the university for financial reasons.
It is intolerable that after years of a starvation diet, the South Carolina General Assembly plans to euthanize SCSU. South Carolina legislators would do well to remember that the one positive legacy of Strom Thurmond was his abiding support for South Carolina State.
We request that the State Legislature consider as a first resort the appointment of a Comptroller or Financial Manager as opposed to closing SCSU. We urge the members of the South Carolina State Legislature to:
Wait until a full audit of funds received and funds lost per year as a result of cuts is completed;
Lobby for more federal aid;
Energize the South Carolina State Alumni; and
Restore cuts to Pell Grants and Parent Plus loans.
It is important for our South Carolina lawmakers to cure the disease of inadequate funding, rather than kill the patient.