In an effort to amass support from young African Americans, Democratic contenders for the U.S. presidential nomination have announced plans to support historic black colleges and universities.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36% of voters age18-29 voted in the 2018 midterm election, which was the largest turnout in many years. The turnout in 2014 was 20%. During that time period, African American voter turnout increased from 40% to 51%.
With a combined enrollment of more than 200,000 students, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, and vast a alumni network, HBCUs have the potential to be a game changer in a crowded field. sSpporting them is a strategy candidates are using to appeal to blacks. Among the candidates remaining, Bernie Sanders has the most detailed plan for supporting HBCUs. Other candidates have touted support for HBCUs in interviews and include minor highlights on their campaign websites.
A key platform point by Sanders, a senator from Vermont, is tuition-free education for public and private HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. His platform also includes increased funding for those institutions in order to reduce the gap between the financial support predominantly white institutions receive. His “college for all” promises to reduce the financial barriers students from low-income homes face, which can have a positive impact on HBCU enrollment.
According to Sanders’ plan, funding will particularly be directed for increased teacher training, dental and medical programs.
Marie Rattigan, a field organizer for the Dream Defenders — an organization that last month declared its support for Sanders — said, ”We’ve been told all of our lives that going to college is the only way to get ahead. But now, black people are graduating college with more debt and less job prospects than our white peers.
“And still, we’re expected to pay back these exorbitant loans. So we’re defaulting. This means you can’t buy a house or a car, you can’t get a credit card, and the government can garnish your paycheck and tax refund,” she added. “Student loans are stifling generations of black people.”
She said that Sanders has been fighting for black people since he was in college.
America’s population is aging. According to the census bureau, in 2030 all baby boomers will be above the age of 65. This means that greater dependency will be placed on millennials and the upcoming generation to carry the burden of Social Security and the national debt.
However, many young Americans are faced with student loan debts which have led to low returns from America’s prosperous economy. For this reason, many of the Democratic candidates vying for the presidency are proposing policies pertaining to student loan forgiveness and even free college tuition. According to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, HBCUs produce 40% of African American members of Congress, 50% of African American lawyers and 80% of African American judges.
However, Sanders remains the only candidate with a specific, detailed plan of action for HBCUs.