NAFEO Welcomes “ASPIRE” with Thanksgiving to Senators Coons, Isakson and Other Co-Sponsors

The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) is appreciative to Senators Coons and Isakson for heeding NAFEO’s appeal for a bipartisan group of Members of Congress to explore ways of incentivizing a greater number of colleges and universities to educate the growing populations of this nation—low-income and racial and ethnic minority students– and rewarding those institutions graduating disproportionate percentages of the growing populations of the states. NAFEO has urged in testimony and briefings for the past eight years, “the provision of “cost of education” direct aid to institutions in proportion to the percentage of financially needy students they graduate” as “a cost efficient way of moving the nation toward closing the achievement, attainment, and economic gaps,” and ensuring the strength of the institutions like HBCUs and MSIs. We noted,  “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.[1]

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The ASPIRE legislation will begin an important discussion that can move the nation toward acknowledging and rewarding institutions like HBCUs and MSIs graduating disproportionate percentages of low-income students, first generation students, and students of color. For example, HBCUs are just 3% of American 4-year colleges and universities. They are richly diverse. They 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.  On average, 70% of FTE HBCU students are Pell-eligible. 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.

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.

The National Science Foundation reports that 9 of the top 10 institutions graduating Blacks in STEM fields are HBCUs.  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; and 70% of Black Dentists.

NAFEO looks forward to continuing to work with Senators Coons and Isakson and their legislative staffers, to fine tune the measure to make certain that it has no unintended adverse impacts on institutions educating the greatest percentages of low income students, at the lowest costs for matriculation and graduation, and with the smallest endowments. NAFEO looks forward to bringing additional Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, and other stakeholders into the important discussion about the value and importance of incentivizing more American colleges and universities to graduate more of the growing populations of this nation; and of rewarding institutions, like HBCUs and MSIs, without which it has been suggested there would be scant diversity and therefore, little excellence in the nation’s growth, high-and critical-need disciplines.

[1] [1] 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).