Ensuring That Black College Students Succeed

Project 21’s innovative suggestion to tie colleges’ and universities’ eligibility for federal aid to their ability to ensure the students they admit have what it takes to graduate was recently highlighted in a Washington Times commentary.

Council Nedd II, a Project 21 co-chairman and former teacher, authored the commentary. It draws attention to this key recommendation from the black leadership network’s “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America.” He wrote:

I spent a few years teaching in a Washington, D.C. charter school. Our goal was college prep, and our success rate was quite good. But there were plenty of great kids who stumbled because they were welcomed at schools that seemed to see them more as a diversity statistic than a cherished investment. Such callous attitudes have no place in our colleges and universities, which should be focused on students’ success and aiding their path to graduation…

A student body boasting a vast array of races, classes and experiences is fine as long as there is also equal opportunity to earn a diploma. That’s obviously not the case today. Institutions of higher education must improve graduation rates, and tying performance to federal funding is an effective motivation.

Today Harvard goes on trial for allegedly discriminating against students of Asian descent to ensure a more diverse student body. Council notes how the Project 21 plan differs from the goals of the NAACP, which is involved in the case in support of Harvard’s admissions policy:

Acknowledging the failure of many K-12 public schools in preparing black students for college, Project 21 notes that colleges and universities compound the problem with preferential admissions policies setting black students up to fail. To meet diversity mandates, schools make offers to applicants with lower SAT and ACT scores, fewer AP course credits and lower high school GPAs. This can fill incoming classes with black students unprepared for the academic environments to which they’ve been matched…

While the NAACP argues in the Harvard case that “[e]liminating race-conscious admissions would disproportionately harm applicants of color,” Project 21 recommends a race-neutral policy pushing schools to make admissions choices that aim for student success.

Project 21 suggests incentivizing schools to provide black students the support they need by requiring schools to meet minimum graduation rate standards in order to qualify for federal financial aid programs. An initial 60% graduation rate is advised for the general student population, and no less than a 15% lower rate for minority students that would equalize over time. If a school cannot meet these goals, they’ve flunked the eligibility test for federal aid.

In all, Project 21’s Blueprint offers four specific proposals to give black college students a better deal by promoting their success rather than setting them up to fail:

  • Require schools receiving federal financial aid to meet minimum six-year graduation rate standards of 60 percent for the general student population and an initial 15 percent lower rate for minority students to be phased out over time.
  • Reprogram existing federal funding to provide additional resources to improve the infrastructure of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) if they agree to meet set six-year graduation rate standards.
  • Prevent tuition inflation by limiting the overall amount of grants and loans a student can receive and by limiting the tuition of schools may charge in order to be eligible to receive federal financial aid programs.
  • Prohibit federal funding to any school encouraging race-based campus segregation such as separate housing, student centers, recreational facilities and graduations.

To read Council’s “How Stalking Diversity Statistics Sidelines Education” in its entirety, click here.

Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over 25 years, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Its members have been quoted, interviewed or published over 40,000 times since the program was created in 1992. Contributions to the National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated, and may be earmarked exclusively for the use of Project 21.