CBC: Parent Plus Changes Not Enough

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said in a statement Friday that the Department of Education’s announced changes to the troublesome Parent Plus Loan criteria are “merely a way to mitigate” the problem, not solve it.

In a statement, the chairwoman said this will not prevent parents from being rejected for the loan in droves, noting that any new rules the department decides to enact would not be effective until Spring 2016.

“The solution proposed by the Department is not a victory for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). What the CBC and members of the HBCU community are seeking is a real solution. Asking to suspend a policy that has closed the doors of education to thousands of students is a realistic and reasonable request. Once again, we ask that the Department of Education cease and desist,” Fudge said.

Fudge contended that the proposed “solution” will do nothing to ensure parents are eligible for loans and will continue to make the task of financing a college education more difficult.

In a joint statement released this week, Fudge, Hampton University president and  President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs chair Dr. William Harvey, NAFEO president Lezli Baskerville, UNCF president Michael Lomax and Thurgood Marshall College Fund president Johnny Taylor called for the Department of Education to immediately revert back to the pre-2011 interpretation of “adverse credit history” to stop the “hemorrhaging” HBCUs are facing.

“There were no new regulations; and therefore, there was not the typical notice and comment period.  Clearly, the students and the institutions were blindsided,” Harvey said.

Baskerville reiterated her previous position that the community should have been consulted prior to the changes to appropriately analyze the impact the new criteria would have on the institutions prior to enactment.

“The reality is that the current and proposed public input actions should have taken place prior to the Department’s significant policy change,” Baskerville said. The Administrative Procedures Act specifies that in these cases, public ‘notice and comment’ are required in advance of the policy change.  Implementing the change when there is no indication that there were especially high default rates, fraud or abuse, or any loss on the federal government’s investment in this program is perplexing and it has resulted in the hemorrhaging of tens of thousands of students from our campuses.

The proposed fixes enacted by Congress last week have only further frustrated HBCU leaders and advocates, many of whom have continually voiced their growing doubts over the president’s commitment to supporting the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“Particularly troublesome for me is how the Administration could possibly reconcile its 2020 goal for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world with its changes in Parent PLUS resulting in 28,000 HBCU students not being able to fill the gap in resources needed to pay for college and a loss of at least $154M in revenue to HBCUs.  In my view, the 2020 goal and the changes in Parent PLUS are irreconcilable,” Harvey said.

Taylor believes that the president must get directly involved in correcting the blows HBCUs have suffered during his administration.

“If President Obama is really serious about addressing the needs of our students and families, he would direct Secretary Duncan to do something about this now and not wait until 2014 while thousands of would-be college students sit at home,” Taylor said.

The joint statement again hints at pursuing legal action against the Obama Administration, an idea that has been raised a number of times in the past.