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College affordability threatens minority higher education

More African Americans are attending college than ever, but the number of graduates remains low possibly due to the costs of attending.

“My family motivated me to attend college because neither parent graduated, and they wanted me to become successful,” freshman Briyana Johnson said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008, the unemployment rate for African Americans with college degrees was 3.8 percent compared to 9.3 percent for those with a high school degree. For black females, a college degree translated into wages 70 percent higher than those earned by high school graduates.

Michelle Frankenberger, director of Institutional Research and Records Management, showed a statistic that at TJC during the 2007- 2008 school year, that 272 African Americans graduated and 2,045 were actually enrolled.

According to the SallieMae program Champions for Higher Education, in 1971, 7 percent of African Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 held a bachelor’s degree. By 2007, that number nearly tripled to 20 percent. In comparison, 36 percent of their white peers graduated from college in 2007.

“We must ensure that we provide access to African Americans and Hispanics of low-income families, especially,” Dr. Austin Lane, VP of Student Affairs, said.

The percentage of African Americans attending college has grown throughout the years, but the rate of those who actually graduate is still low.

“If they (the student) don’t adjust socially nor academically, they are at risk staying here,” said Lane.

Compared to only 9 percent of whites and 15 percent of Hispanics, 28 percent of African American parents said they strongly agreed with the statement “college is not affordable for my family,” according to Sallie-Mae Gallup research.

African Americans have become more concerned about their education partly because it is harder to find financial aid that is affordable.

Dr. Lane said that TJC can easily accept the students to TJC but it’s how the students are going to pay for classes that is the challenge.

One of the problems for low-income African Americans and Hispanics is affordability and how to pay for college.

“I pay for school either out of pocket and have a Pell grant worth only $500 that I received from financial aid, and one student loan,” said LaMarquis Ray, TJC sophomore.

Some African American students feel that it is harder to get financial aid due to their parents’ income or other financial reasons that may prevent them from qualifying.

Keyon Lewis, a TJC sophomore struggles to pay for college because he has to pay out of pocket and request student loans in order to cover his school fees.

“My mom is a single parent, and me and my sister both attend college, and we are still unable to receive benefits for financial aid. I think that people with money (wealthier families) still get financial aid, while people (middle class or low-income) without money, can’t qualify,” Lewis said.

So even though more students are coming to college, the challenge becomes how to afford to stay.

“Quality is first, but most of all affordability is very important as well,” said Lane.

For more information on financial aid, contact the Financial Aid office at 903-510-2385.

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