T. Alex Hooks, 20, of Richmond, who is a rising senior at Howard, said he entered the university in the fall of 2010 with help from scholarships, grants and a federal parent loan. Last year, Hooks said, his parents were turned down for a federal loan. An uncle co-signed a private loan to help him remain at Howard. Now Hooks is seeking to cobble together enough money to finish his bachelor’s degree in marketing. “I’m not exactly sure how things are going to work out,” Hooks said.
Howard said in a statement that the university is making every effort to ensure that students secure the loans and grants they need following “changes in national student loan policies [that] led to a staggering increase in loan denials for undergraduates and their parents.”
Loan drop at historically black schools
The numbers: Federal parent loans and historically black colleges
The university said that nearly 600 federal loan denials for its students were reversed on appeal in 2012-13, helping to “soften the decline in enrollment.” Howard had 10,002 students in the fall of 2012, down from 10,583 the year before.
Howard, like numerous other schools, has grown more reliant on parent loans. Federal data show that tuition and fees at Howard doubled from the 2000-01 school year to 2011-12, to about $20,000 a year. In that span, the volume of federal loans approved for parents of Howard students more than quadrupled, to about $45 million. Tuition and fees at Howard are now about $22,700 a year.
For the Obama administration, the uproar over parent loans at HBCUs poses a political challenge. Leaders of the United Negro College Fund and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund have pressed Duncan for relief for parents and students they say have been unjustly deprived of loans. The administration has helped with loan appeals but has shown no indication that it is willing to reverse the 2011 action.
Shelton, the acting deputy secretary, acknowledged that the department failed to adequately assess the impact of the underwriting shift and mishandled its early communication with colleges on the issue. “There’s a bunch of stuff that could have been done better,” Shelton said. But he added: “We think that we did the right thing.”