In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said the Department of Education’s newly released College Scorecard would help parents and students “compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”
According to the latest statistics, America’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) consistently fail to meet that “criteria.”
A Wall Street Journal analysis of the Scorecard puts HBCUs next to for-profit art schools when it comes to leaving students with high amounts of debt and degrees written in “red ink.”
The free-market American Enterprise Institute’s Frederick Hess told The Daily Caller HBCUs are a “dangerous” topic of conversation in education circles.
“The subject’s racially charged,” he said. “If we were to apply the gainful-employment method the federal government applies to for-profit schools to HBCUs, their students would no longer receive federal financial aid.”
In 2012, the Department of Education described 218 post-secondary schools that could lose federal student aid if their students continue to exhibit three-year default rates over 30 percent. Fourteen were HBCUs. That means, of approximately 6,900 accredited schools nationwide, 3.2 percent could lose federal support, while 13.3 percent of HBCUs face that risk.
Morehouse College in Atlanta — Martin Luther King, Jr.’s alma mater and one of the most famous HBCUs — is not in as much trouble as those 218 yet, but its numbers reflect the troubling trend. In 2011-2012, only 36 percent of Morehouse students had graduated in four years, and only 55 percent had graduated in six years, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. And whether they graduated or not, 76 percent owed loans averaging over $40,000 to cover annual tuition of $23,234, a number the College Scorecard terms “high.” In addition, 27 percent of Morehouse students defaulted on loan payments.
Jeanna Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy called the Morehouse default rate “appalling.” The student loan default rate is 13.8 percent nationally, while at for-profit institutions — a diverse group ranging from University of Phoenix to cosmetology schools — the average rate is 22.7 percent.
Nationally, the average student debt is $27,253. At all-male Morehouse, it’s nearly $10,000 higher. Only The Creative Center, the Manhattan School of Music and the Southern California Institute of Architecture — three for-profit art schools — show higher student debt, according to the Journal’s findings.
At Morehouse’s sister school, Spelman College in Atlanta, students graduate at a higher rate, with an average of $4,000 less in loan debt than their Morehouse counterparts. Spelman students also default on their loans at a lower rate than students at Morehouse. Most students at HBCUs, however, fare significantly worse than Morehouse students.
Just 41 percent of students at Clark Atlanta University graduate in six years, leaving campus with an average $24,653 of debt. Payscale.com, estimates Clark Atlanta students receive a 30-year return on their investment of negative $109,000.
The online job compensation calculator estimates students at Shaw University in North Carolina receive a return of negative $112,000. A negative “ROI” means students at these two schools do worse financially over a 30-year period than if they had never attended.