with Dr. Krystal Williams, a Senior Research Associate at the United Negro College Fund
Posted Feb 16, 2017
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African American students enrolled in Historically Black Colleges and Universities are left in significantly higher debt than peers attending non-HBCUs. Why is this the case and what are some possible solutions to lower the financial burden? Part 2 of a discussion with Dr. Krystal Williams, a Senior Research Associate at the United Negro College Fund. Click here for part 1 of HBCU Student Debt.
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Traynham: If I'm a parent, if I'm a loved one at home, and I have a loved one that's about to go to college, perhaps maybe this semester or the following semester, and I want to help, but I'm living paycheck to paycheck. I'm doing everything that I possibly can to keep my head above water. What can I do to help my loved one get through school with low debt?
Williams: Well, I think one of the challenges is really making sure that you apply for student aid. Unfortunately, because it is a kind of complex situation, a lot of students may not be able to navigate that process, as well. But it is very important that you do engage the FAFSA and try to see exactly how much money you are eligible for.
Traynham: You know, Doctor, can we pause there for a second? I think this is so important because, as I understand it, there are so many parents out there that look at this bible of paper and they don't know what to do and they become overwhelmed because, as I mentioned a few moments ago, perhaps never went through this process before. The student doesn't know. And so, it's almost like the blind leading the blind here. So how can we help parents, empower parents and loved ones to fill out the forms to get the grants?
Williams: You know, that's a great question. I would encourage parents to be in touch with the financial-aid officers on campus, on the campuses that the students are interested in. There are a lot of very good resources available online, as well. I would also encourage parents to look at places like UNCF and see what other types of scholarships are available that may not come from the federal government.
Traynham: Dr. Williams, it seems like we keep having this conversation over and over and over again about breaking the chain of dependency here when it comes to not understanding everything that the black community should be doing for itself. What else can we be doing as a community? Is there something that churches should be doing? Is there something that UNCF and perhaps maybe some other organizations should be doing to help raise the awareness?
Williams: I think that we definitely need to start having these conversations with our children at a very early point in their lives so that they can start to plan, so that we can start to plan. We understand that college is very expensive. Oftentimes, families start to engage that process in high school, and that means you've lost a lot of time to think about the financial situation and obligations and kind of align yourself with what the plan will be for your children. So I think one thing is early planning, and another things, too, is just being aware of what's available to you. Again, like I said, making sure that, even though it is very tedious to fill out a FAFSA, that you do it because there is money that you could possibly be leaving on the table because you didn't navigate that process effectively. And in addition to that, as I said before, look into other resources. Individual campuses oftentimes have scholarships that are available to students. UNCF has scholarships that are available to students. Churches offer scholarships that are available to students. I mean, unfortunately, you really do have to beat the ground and beat the pavement in finding out what the resources are and putting them together in a way that meets your financial situation.
Traynham: All right, it sounds like a lot of tenacity, a lot of hard work, and pulling up your sleeves, and figuring out that maze is the most important thing to do because, two things, one, you want to get a college degree, but you also want to pay back that loan because that can impact your credit score for many, many years to come.
Williams: Many years.
Traynham: Dr. Krystal Williams, groundbreaking research here. Folks who are interested in this research can go where?
Traynham: Thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
Williams: Thank you so much.
Traynham: And thank you for joining usfor this edition of "Comcast Newsmakers."I'm Robert Traynham. Have a great day, everybody.We'll see you next time. Bye-bye.