Dr. David Wilson, President of Morgan State University, Testified Before Democratic Party Platform Committee at Invitation of Chairman Elijah Cummings (MD-7) on Behalf of Morgan and the NAFEO HBCU/PBI Community

Remarks of Dr. David Wilson, President, Morgan State University, Before the Democratic National Platform Drafting Committee In behalf of Morgan State University and The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)[1]

June 9, 2016
Omni Shoreham Hotel
12:30 p.m.

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Good afternoon, Chairman Cummings and Members of this august body. I am humbled and pleased to have been invited to appear before you this afternoon to share brief remarks and make recommendations on behalf of Morgan State University, and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), the national membership and advocacy association for the entire richly diverse community of colleges and universities known as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs).

Those of us in the State of Maryland, and especially in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District know that the outcome of these deliberations will be thoughtful, balanced, compelling and set the tone and vision of the competitive, inclusive and just America that we envision.  Congressman Cummings’ leadership style throughout his two decades of service in the United States Congress has been punctuated by his studied and thoughtful approach; his effective use of his platforms to build bridges and tear down barriers to the full and unfettered participation of all Americans in the bounty of our great nation. Our Congressman is known for his quantifiable results. We expect this and more from this diverse and impressive Committee driven by Chairman Elijah Cummings.

My name is David Wilson. I serve as President of Morgan State University, and I also serve as a member of President Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. From my vantage as President of Morgan State University for the past six years, and my more than thirty (30) years of experience in higher education administration, including service as chancellor of both University of Wisconsin Colleges and the University of Wisconsin–Extension, from the vantage of Vice President for University Outreach and Associate Provost at Auburn University, and Associate Provost of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, I have concluded that the richly diverse community of colleges known as HBCUs, offer the best value proposition and the greatest return on investment of any grouping of American colleges and universities today.

For more than 180 years, HBCUs have consistently educated disproportionately large percentages of competitive, diverse graduates, giving rise to, and sustaining a robust Black middle class in this country and accounting almost exclusively for the diversity in some professions today, especially in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  See, e.g., Carnevale, Anthony, Fasules, Porter and Andes-Santos, African Americans: College Majors and Earnings, February 8, 2016, https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/african-american-majors/.

As the nation is grappling with how to expand educational access and increase success, especially for the increasingly colored, and low-income students and families, there is evidence that the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), a richly diverse group of 106 mission-based institutions, have honed a promising model for educating the growing populations of the states and the nation in growth,  high- and critical-need positions, while containing costs.

I offer several contextual points for your information, and make six (6) recommendations for inclusion in the Democratic National Committee Platform.

The Centrality of HBCUs to Achieving Important American Goals

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were founded primarily in the period just after the Civil War with an historic and contemporary mission of educating blacks while being open to all at a time when most other American universities had as their mission, the education of wealthy white males. As with most American colleges and universities, HBCUs have evolved over time. Today, as a cohort, they are among the nation’s most diverse colleges and universities with an average of nearly 30% student diversity and in excess of 40% faculty diversity. HBCUs are developing the human potential and social capital of diverse students. HBCUs are at the creative forefront of American education, offering the tools and skills necessary for students to succeed in today’s diverse, globally interdependent, and technologically advanced world. They prepare students to promote peace at home and abroad; secure our communities and our homeland; meet pressing global and community health care needs; and fight injustice with the power of ideas.  They develop students with the intercultural, interpersonal and political skills with which to compete and thrive in a pluralistic world.

HBCUs are not monolithic.  These colleges are as richly diverse as the overall cohort of higher education institutions. There are 2- and 4-year colleges and universities, public, private and land-grant institutions; undergraduate, graduate and professional schools.  As a group, they educate a disproportionate percentage of low-income students; students of least advantage. The institutions have one eighth (1/8) of the average size of endowments of colleges and universities historically educating primarily white students.  Despite the smaller endowments, and notwithstanding the fact that HBCUs are just a fraction of the larger community of higher education institutions, HBCUs have a proven track record of identifying students with strong potential, supporting them through graduation and producing exceptional professionals and first-rate human beings. While comprising only 3 percent of the nation’s four-year colleges, HBCUs enroll approximately 21 percent of all African American undergraduate college students and confer 22 percent of all bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans.

Given the nation’s shifting demographics to becoming “majority minority,” and increasingly low-income, first generation families, in order for the United States to realize its education, workforce and economic goals, HBCUs and PBIs are critical for producing a diverse pipeline of the quality of employees and entrepreneurs America needs to successfully compete in the global economy; people with the content and character that are needed to move this nation and the world to a peaceful co-existence, toward ecumenism and becoming a sustainable community of One.

Today, HBCUs collectively enroll more than 400,000 students annually, and bestow nearly 25% of all undergraduate degrees earned by African Americans, even though HBCUs represent less that 3% of all higher education institutions. The National Science Foundation reports that 9 of the top 10 institutions graduating Blacks in STEM fields are HBCUs.

At my institution, Morgan State University, we are number one in the nation in producing black electrical engineers, number one in the nation in producing black civil engineers, and number one in the nation in producing black industrial engineers.

HBCUs are leading the way in educating African American graduates in scientific, technological and other fields required for American competitiveness:

  • 53% of all Blacks in Agriculture
  • 42% of all Blacks in Biology
  • 35% of all Blacks in Computer Science
  • 33% of all Blacks in Engineering
  • 43% of all Blacks in Mathematics
  • 50% of Public School Teachers
  • 70% of Dentists

Despite their vitally important role in American higher education, HBCUs have never received a proportionate share of federal, state or philanthropic higher education dollars relative to their mission, output, and impact. Although public funding to HBCUs has increased in absolute terms over the past decade, an entrenched and intractable gap persists between public dollars invested in HBCUs and their HWCU counterparts.[2]

The NSF reports that six (6) of the top twenty (20) historically and predominantly White institutions receive more federal funds for research than seventy-nine (79) HBCUs combined. The United States Commission on Civil Rights, the National Academy of Sciences and others report persistent disparities and inequities in public funding for HBCUs and their HWCU counterparts. In terms of private funding and support, a similar funding gap has been documented. The average endowment of HBCUs is a mere one eighth  (1/8) of the size of the average HWCU endowment.

Democratic National Platform Recommendations

We propose that the Party platforms[3] should state clearly and unequivocally their recognition of the centrality of HBCUs to the ability of the nation to realize critical education, economic, workforce, entrepreneurial, research, scientific, sustainability, security and justice goals. The Platforms should also acknowledge that these mission-based institutions are exemplars in cost containment and in graduating disproportionate percentages of the growing populations of the nation—persons who are low income, first generation, and persons of color; and that HBCUs are, thus, having a major affirmative impact on closing the nation’s access, achievement, attainment and economic gaps. Based on these acknowledgements, we make six (6) recommendations for inclusion  in the Party platforms. In the interest of time and space, we focus on recommendations that we believe are not advanced by others of today’s witnesses. We align with the education, entrepreneurship, workforce preparation, tax and other recommendations of so many of the other witnesses.

  • The federal government should improve the design of and increase the funding for federal matching programs to induce states, institutions, and private entities to invest more funds in the endowments and sustainability of HBCUs. An enhanced funding partnership between the federal government, including tax incentives, matching programs, and other creative leveraging of the federal purse, to incentivize states, private philanthropies, HBCU stakeholders and allies, to invest more in these institutions is an imperative. HBCUs are educating proportionately more African Americans with four-year, graduate and professional degrees in growth, high-and critical need professions, than any other group of colleges and universities.
    With the funds from the enhanced federal/state/foundation/institution/stakeholder partnership, driven by the federal government, we propose the establishment of a $1B Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) College Promise Fund and Campaign designed to address the need to grow and sustain the endowments of HBCUs. Such investments are needed to enable these small, diverse, mission-based, equal educational opportunity institutions to become less tuition dependent. The endowment funds are needed to enable the HBCUs to provide gap funding to assist their disproportionately low-income, Pell- eligible students to meet unmet financial need, to enable them to persist and graduate at  higher rates. The HBCU College Promise Fund & Campaign will also enable HBCUs to invest in academic programs, facilities, and student services in alignment with their outcomes. The need for an HBCU $1B sustainable endowment fund is suggested by a Moody’s Investor Service September 2015 report that predicts that by 2017, college closures will triple and college merges will double for “small” colleges, defined as below $100M in operating revenue for private institutions and below $200M in operating revenue for public institutions. That HBCUs as a class have endowments one eighth (1/8) the size of those of the average historically and predominantly White colleges and universities bodes ill for these institutions that are graduating 60% of African American health professionals, 50% of African American education professionals, and 40% of African Americans with advanced degrees in STEM. The nation has an interest in partnering with the HBCU community in this new and innovative manner.[4]

    • (a) The federal government should create more incentives for a greater number of colleges and universities to educate low-income and racial and ethnic minority students, and rewards for those institutions graduating disproportionate percentages of the growing populations of the states. The provision of “cost of education” direct aid to institutions in proportion to the percentage of financially needy students they graduate would be a cost efficient way of moving the nation toward closing the achievement, attainment, and economic gaps. This would be consistent with the initial intent and the enabling legislation for the Pell Grant. It was understood that educating socially and economically disadvantaged students would increase college costs. The original authorizing legislation for Pell grants envisaged direct institutional grants to colleges that enrolled proportionately more Pell grant recipients, to cover the extra costs associated with educating students of least advantage.[5] These “cost of education allowances” were never funded, but the legislative history of the Pell Grant makes clear the intent that there should be such an allowance for institutions doing the heavy lifting in educating low-income students. The “cost of education allowances” should be included in the Pell Grant program to move the nation closer to its goal of having 60% of Americans with a 2- or 4-year degree by 2020.
    • (b) The federal government should make other adjustments to the Pell Grant program, the heart of the federal student financial assistance program. The Pell Grant should be adjusted so that the maximum award will cover the average cost of a public four-year university. Now is the time for this long-overdue adjustment, as we are facing a Pell Grant surplus.
    • (c) Families on a need-based federal program should be provided early notifiction of their likely eligibility of participation in the Pell Grant program. Such notification should be provided no later than when the students are  when their students are in eighth grade. This would inspire more low-income students and families to study, grow to capacity and prepare for college with the expectation that if they are prepared, they will be able to attend and afford a college education.
    • (d) The federal government should restore the year-round Pell Grant to allow students who must work or care for loved ones while pursuing a college degree or certificate to do so and graduate on time; and to allow other students to participate in academic programs that prepare them for graduate study, such as summer school, language programs, or study abroad.
      The fundamental purpose of student financial assistance at the federal, state, institutional, and philanthropic levels is to assist financially needy students to enroll, persist a nd graduate from college. There may certainly be supplemental purposes, but the centerpiece of investments in student financial assistance must be closing the gap between the cost of attending college and family resources available.  The above proposal will move the nation in this direction.
  • The federal government, states, and private sources should include in all College Promise initiatives, the provisions contained in the America’s College Promise Act introduced by Congressman Robert Scott (3-VA) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI).[6]
    Federal legislation, state, and private College Promise measures inclusive of the provisions in the Scott/Baldwin bill would remove financial barriers and expand educational opportunities for tens of millions of American students desirous of attaining a 2-year certificate or a 4-year degree, but for whom the financial burden might otherwise be a barrier.
    Initiatives inclusive of the Scott/Baldwin provisions would create vehicles for enabling students desirous of attending a two-year college, including one of the nation’s fifteen (15) two-year HBCUs, and one of the nation’s eighty (80) Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) to do so, without the burden of paying tuition and fees for the first two years of community college. Importantly, these initiatives would also remove financial barriers to enrollment and persistence for low-income students desirous of attending or attending four-year HBCUs or MSIs, by making the first two years of their four-year program “free.”
    The Scott/Baldwin provisions acknowledge four-year HBCUs and MSIs as leaders in developing and sustaining models of excellence in educating and graduating disproportionate percentages of racial and ethnic minorities, first generation students, students of fewer financial means, women and veterans, in growth and high need disciplines. Scott/Baldwin also reflects an understanding that College Promise measures that simply support making the first-two years of community college “free,” will likely have an unintended adverse impact on four-year HBCUs and MSIs, by steering their student base away from four-year HBCUs and MSIs and into a community college. Scott/Baldwin also recognizes that especially for African Americans, the data indicate, those who attend two-year institutions fail to complete at alarmingly high rates. African Americans, who are overrepresented in two-year institutions and under-represented in four-year colleges and universities, graduate and professional schools, must be provided the preparation and funding to pursue a four-year degree if that is aligned with their aspirations. Scott/Baldwin initiatives will enable HBCU and PBI students to begin their journeys without the burden of employment or working as many hours in fields not related to their course of study. This will most assuredly decrease the time to completion for thousands of low-income students, and enable HBCUs and PBIs to build on their successes in graduating proportionately more African Americans in growth and high-need professions, and to accelerate the rate at which they are preparing richly diverse students for today’s labor force, entrepreneurship, public service, civic engagement, and for leadership in their families and communities.
    Evaluations of all College Promise initiatives should include the extent to which they expand college access and success for low- and middle-income students who could not cover the costs of college without the College Promise scholarships, and the extent to which the initiatives are closing the college achievement and attainment gaps in their targeted service areas;
  • The federal government should better leverage the power of the federal purse and more strategically and aggressively enforce federal laws, regulations, and mandates to get the states that maintain public HBCUs and public historically and predominantly White colleges and universities (HWCUs) to invest in HBCUs such that they are “comparable to and competitive with” HWCUs, in accordance with the laws and administrative fiats of the nation.
    The next Administration must move the nation closer to eradicating the decades old practice in the eighteen (18) states known as the Adams States, of continuing to invest proportionately more in the historically White colleges and universities (HWCUs) of the states than in their HBCUs, relative to the missions and outcome of the institutions.
    As states continue to flout their obligation to invest in public HBCUs, such that they are “comparable to and competitive with” the public HWCUs in their states, HBCUs and their stakeholders are increasingly reliant on the Department of Education (OCR) and the Department of Justice for aggressive enforcement of the laws requiring comparability of funding relative to the missions of the institutions. These agencies must be equipped and their executives trained for this important level of enforcement.
    As with other areas of state action or inaction, there is an essential role for the federal government to play in incentivizing states to enforce the laws requiring comparable investments in HBCUs and HWCUs relative to their missions, by withholding federal funds from states and institutions that are non-compliant, and rewarding states that are exemplars. The federal government should reallocate federal resources devoted to broadening higher education, away from states and/or institutions that are flouting their “broadening access” mandate and/or disengaging from serving the growing demographic groups. Consideration should be given to placing on probation or suspending from further Title IV student financial aid program eligibility, those institutions and/or states that are disengaged or disengaging from educating the diverse populations of the states, especially persons who have historically been under-served and under-represented in higher education. The four-year institutions, graduate and professional schools that are educating proportionately more of these growing demographic groups should be strongly supported for the important work they are doing;
  • Federal, State, and private teacher preparation programs should be designed to expand the pool of excellent, diverse teaching professionals, especially African American, and Hispanic teaching professionals, and black male teachers.
    “Although quantifying the connection between diversity and student achievement is difficult, a few researchers have undertaken the task. In the 2001 report, “Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Classroom: Does It Promote Student Learning” in the Journal of Higher Education, for example, Terenzini et al. make the case for what they call “medium diversity,” i.e., a postsecondary classroom majority of between 62 percent and 67 percent. According to the authors, medium diversity was “positively related to reported group skill learning gains.”[i] In their findings, this level of diversity produced the only significant gains in student learning outcomes.[ii] In other words, a more balanced classroom environment where students do not feel marginalized contributes positively to student excellence.
    “Because of the correlation between faculty diversity and student outcomes, the U.S. professoriate also should reflect the nation’s diversity, but it does not. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education and the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 5 percent of faculty are black, 3 percent are Hispanic, and 0.04 percent are Native American, even though they represent, respectively, 12 percent, 14 percent, and 0.8 percent of the total U.S. population.[iii] The absence of diverse faculty means that students are not truly exposed to a healthy range of ideas, opinions, or teaching and learning methods. Relative to this latter point, it has been found that minority and female faculty are more likely than white males, “to use interactive pedagogical strategies that foster greater learning and relationship building for all students than do more traditional teaching practices.”[iv] Not only are the teaching styles of faculty of color and female faculty valuable to all students, these faculty also serve as valuable role models and mentors for students of color who find few in the professoriate. Equally as important, a diverse faculty helps to dismantle stereotypes held by white students, who may only know persons of color from a distance and through media headlines.[7]

    • (a) The federal government (states and private sources also) should invest more in HBCU Schools of Education. The federal government has not invested in HBCUs and MSIs, in proportion to their output. HBCU and MSI schools of education yield the highest percentages graduates from the growing populations of the nation and the states.
      More than any other cohort of American colleges and universities, the schools of education at HBCUs are graduating teachers who are masters of their disciplines, and bring diverse experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, races, ethnicities, cultures, languages and teaching approaches to their studies and the classrooms, tailored to meet the known differing learning styles of the growing populations of the states.
      The nation cannot realize its academic, innovation, economic, excellence, diversity or competitiveness goals without thriving HBCU schools of education. HBCUs, just 3% of American colleges, today graduate 50% of public school teachers at the PK-12 level despite documented disparities in public and private funding for HBCUs when compared to their historically White college counterparts. They graduate disproportionate percentages of African American members of the professoriate.
      NSF reports document current levels of federal funding for HBCUs, especially in the sciences, do not help them support their mission of producing top-notch diverse teachers and faculty. According to the National Science Foundation, HBCUs receive 1.29 percent of federal research and development dollars even though they do much more than their fair share of educating low-income and minority students.[v] Neither private investments nor HBCU endowments make up for the lack of public dollars to HBCU schools of education commensurate with their output.
    • (b) The federal government should include teachers and other education professionals among the professionals for whom loan abatement is possible upon successful completion of an accredited teacher education program and completion of five consecutive years of service in a classroom, in a qualifying school or district.[8]

The teaching profession serves as a gateway to all other professions, and the path through which a literate democracy must tread.  With the standards that have emerged since the landmark, A Nation At Risk Report, the United States is experiencing critical teacher shortages due to factors such as swelling numbers of immigrant and baby boomer children, as well as the “graying” teaching force. HBCUs are essential to the United States for meeting the need for excellent, diverse teachers who will teach in urban and rural areas with a paucity of teachers and even fewer teaching professionals from their racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, factors that have been documented as being important for the success of students.

The  HBCU NCATE accredited schools of education are poised to continue preparing more than their fair share of excellent, diverse teaching professionals, disproportionate percentages of whom will continue serving in traditionally underserved schools. They are primed to accelerate their substantial efforts toward the national goal of having 100,000 teaching professionals in the sciences technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) by 2020.[9] The outcomes of HBCU Schools of Education warrant proportionately greater investments. Authentic, equitable assessments of the schools of education must include measures of the skills, knowledge and competencies in the disciplines as well as the measures included in the above considerations. This broader and more inclusive assessment approach is necessary especially for schools preparing teaching professionals, because we believe, as Dr. Shirley Hufsteadler, that “the role of the teacher remains the highest calling of a free people [because] to the teacher, America entrusts her most precious resource, her children; and asks that they be prepared… to face the rigors of individual participation in a democratic society.”

Conclusion

Given the impressive achievements of HBCUs and the needs of the nation in order to continue leading the world in innovation, economic growth, prosperity, peace, ecumenism, justice, and in educational attainment, the above recommendations are critically important.  I urge your favorable consideration of each.

Chairman Cummings and members of this Committee, I thank you, again, for affording me the opportunity to appear before you today to share highlights of my recommendations, and to submit written testimony for the record.

NAFEO and I stand ready to work with this committee and others across the nation in advancing our recommendations and those recommended by others, in order to make America her best, as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

[1] About NAFEO

NAFEO is the 501(c) (3)-membership association of the nation’s 105 HBCUs and roughly 80 PBIs.  NAFEO serves as the voice for blacks in higher education.” NAFEO members represent more than 500,000 students, 50,000 faculty, and 5 million alumni worldwide. HBCUs have a $13 billion short-term economic impact. They graduate 50% of African American public school teaching professionals; in excess of 40% of African Americans who get advanced degrees in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); 60% of African American health professionals; and growing percentages of African Americans in sustainability and Homeland Security professions, the arts, and humanities.  Learn more at www.nafeo.org.

[2] See, Gasman, M. (2013) Comprehensive Funding Approaches for Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Policy Brief. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

[3] We are submitting the same recommendations to both the Democratic National Platform Drafting Committee and the Republican National Platform Drafting Committee.

[4] What is proposed is the establishment and sustaining of a $1B HBCU College Promise Campaign & Fund designed to get a significant percentage of Americans as well as international partners to invest in HBCUs because they understand the centrality of HBCUs to American success and its global competitiveness. The hypothesis is that the HBCU College Promise Campaign will generate investment in the HBCU College Promise Fund by educating multiple audiences that the strength of these institutions is directly linked to the nation’s potential to maintain peaceful, thriving, interdependent, sustainable, healthy communities with civically engaged, culturally immersed, caring individuals who possess the right skills, passion, courage, convictions, spirit and worldview to help our communities and our nation thrive.

Through data-driven marketing, we will change the perceptions of people about HBCUs. They will see HBCUs as needed today as much as at any time in this nation’s history. They will think of them as not just attractive colleges and universities for African Americans, but for all who want to receive a 2- or 4-year degree in a smaller environment in which the faculty has honed models of excellence in graduating the growing populations of this nation in the growth, high- and critical-need occupations. They will conclude that whether they attend an HBCU or support someone else to attend one, HBCUs are important for the United States, the individual states, and individual students to realize their personal, professional and lifestyle goals.

The key components of the HBCU College Promise design are the Fund and Campaign. The Campaign is designed first, to get African Americans to invest one tenth (1/10) of one 1 percent of their annual buying power of $1.3T into a $1B permanently endowed foundation to support HBCUs. In keeping with the standard practice of grant makers across the nation, the foundation would pay out in grants 5% the earnings per year. These earnings would be distributed among the 106 HBCUs and qualifying PBIs based on a formula as yet to be determined. (The 5% payout is often based on a “rolling average” across several years, rather than a fixed 5% in any given year).

The campaign design is to also get a broad and diverse group of Americans and people worldwide to invest in HBCUs because they will understand from the campaign, the centrality of HBCUs to American competitiveness and to promoting understanding, tolerance, a peaceful and just world.

The enhanced funding partnership between the federal government, including tax incentives, matching programs, and other creative leveraging of the federal purse, to incentivize states, private philanthropies, HBCU stakeholders and allies, to invest more in HBCUs is what is needed to make this Fund and Campaign successful. This Fund and Campaign can enable HBCUs to thrive and to increase the numbers of students they are graduating in growth, high-and critical need professions. It can also reduce student time to graduation.

[5] Michael S. McPherson, Ph.D., President, Spencer Foundation, former president, Macalester College; and Morton Owen Schapiro, Ph.D., President, Northwestern University and former president, Williams College, “Getting the Most Out of Federal Student Aid Spending—Encouraging Colleges and Universities to Promote the Common Good,” in The National Dialogue on Student Financial Aid: Challenging Times, Clear Choices: An Action Agenda for College Access & Success, Edited by Michael Nettles, Ph.D., and Lezli Baskerville, Esquire, Vice President Government Relations, The College Board (2003).

[6] SENS. BALDWIN, BOOKER AND REP. SCOTT INTRODUCE AMERICA’S COLLEGE PROMISE ACT TO MAKE   HIGHER EDUCATION MORE ACCESSIBLE AND AFFORDABLE

WASHINGTON, D.C.  July 8, 2015 – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a press conference call to unveil the America’s College Promise Act of 2015. U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined Senator Baldwin as an original cosponsor of the new legislation.

The America’s College Promise Act of 2015 makes two years of community college free and provides an affordable pathway for low-income students to a four-year college degree. The legislation would give students the opportunity to access quality and affordable higher education that gives them the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.

“Higher education should be a path to shared prosperity, not a path into suffocating debt. But unfortunately, college costs and student loan debt are holding back an entire generation and creating a drag on economic growth for our country. America needs out-educate the rest of the world in order to better compete in a 21st century, skills based economy,” said Senator Baldwin. “The America’s College Promise Act is an investment in workforce readiness and our economy. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with the help of my friend Congressman Scott, and with the full support of the Administration, in order to give all students the opportunity to gain the skills they need to compete, succeed, and prosper.”

“Our greatest national asset is the genius of our young people. But with the skyrocketing cost of tuition, more and more families across America feel priced out of a postsecondary degree. This is a disservice to our students and our nation in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy,” said Senator Booker. “America’s College Promise Act answers President Obama’s call to Congress to invest in our future workforce by saving students thousands of dollars on the path to a college degree. Our bill provides the kind of support many young people need to reach their potential by creating strategic partnerships between the federal and state government so that all students have a fair shot at achieving the American Dream.”

“Students and families are faced with the overwhelming burden of figuring out how to pay for college,” said Congressman Scott. “America’s College Promise is a step in the right direction to help families gain access to quality, affordable higher education opportunities. For low-income students, this bill creates a pathway to a four-year degree at qualifying Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving institutions (AANAPISIs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). At a time when families feel like they’re increasingly having to adapt to a changing economy and technology, America’s College Promise creates a way for them to gain the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy.”

“America’s College Promise is the President’s bold vision, announced earlier this year, to make two years of college as universal as high school was a century ago, helping students earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree and earn skills needed in the workforce at no cost,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Community colleges are not just a uniquely American institution, but as the largest most affordable segment of America’s higher education system, they are critical to reaching the President’s goal to have the highest share of college graduates in the world and to ensuring America’s economic prosperity in the future.” ….

This legislation:

  • Creates a new partnership between the federal government and states and Indian tribes to help them waive resident tuition in two years of community and technical college programs for eligible students, while promoting key reforms to accelerate student success;
  • Provides a federal match of $3 for every $1 invested by the state to waive community college tuition and fees for eligible students before other financial aid is applied;
  • Ensures that programs offer academic credits which are fully transferable to four-year institutions in their state, or occupational training that leads to credentials in an in-demand industry;
  • Maintains and encourages state funding for higher education; and
  • Establishes a new grant program to provide pathways to success at minority serving institutions by helping them cover a significant portion of tuition and fees for the first two years of attendance for low-income students.

The America’s College Promise Act is cosponsored by over 60 members of the House of Representatives and the following members of the United States Senate: Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

The legislation has also been endorsed by: AFL-CIO, Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), Asian American and Pacific Islander Association of Colleges and Universities (APIACU), Asian and Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund (APIASF), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Campaign for America’s Future, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Consumers Union, Generation Progress, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), National Education Association (NEA), National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), National Skills Coalition, One Wisconsin Now, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), Student Debt Crisis, The Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), United Negro College Fund (UNCF), University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin Extension, and Wisconsin Technical College System.

[7] Baskerville, Lezli et al. The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Faculty Diversity, in American Federation of Teachers, American Educator, wwww.aft.org.

[8] There are several models for this approach in current and pending federal legislation.

[9] Not only are HBCU Schools of Education doing the lion’s share of preparing education professionals from the growing populations of the nation and the states, but this pattern also exists in the other HBCU schools and departments. For example, HBCUs are also the leading baccalaureate institutions of blacks who earn doctorates in Science and Engineering. They produce 19 percent of undergraduate science graduates and 20.1 percent of black undergraduate engineering graduates.[9] Forty percent (40 percent) of African Americans receiving four-year degrees in STEM (sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics) receive them at HBCUs. Of the top ten (10) baccalaureate institutions for blacks who go on to receive a Ph.D. in Science or Engineering, nine (9) of the ten (10) are HBCUs.[9] Twenty-four percent (24 percent) of all PhDs earned each year by African Americans are conferred by twenty-four (24) HBCUs. Eighteen (18) of the top twenty-three (23) producers of African Americans who go on to receive science related PhDs are HBCUs. They also comprise four (4) of the top ten (10) producers of successful African American medical school applicants.  See, William L. Spriggs, Senior Economist ACLU and Professor, Howard University School of Economics , Presentation, NAFEO Presidential Peer Seminar, July 2014.

[i] Patrick T. Terenzini et al., “Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Classroom: Does it Promote Student Learning?” Journal of Higher Education 72, no. 5, (September-October 2001) 521.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “Faculty and Staff,” The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, 2006-2007.

[iv] Patricia Gándara and Julie Maxwell-Jolly, Priming the Pump: Strategies for Increasing the Achievement of Underrepresented Minority Undergraduatse (The College Board, 1999).

[v]  National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics, Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, FY 2004, (NSF, 2004).

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