Triangle HBCU leaders cautious of Obama's community college plan
Posted January 26, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Leaders at the Triangle’s historically black colleges and universities have a “wait-and-see” attitude regarding the impact of President Barack Obama’s plan of two years of free community college on their bottom lines.
Fall enrollment at North Carolina HBCUs has declined 7 percent since 2010, according to federal numbers. These schools often have low endowments, so they’re heavily dependent on tuition dollars.
“It’s always a concern when it hurts your bottom line because a lot of what we do is driven by enrollment,” said Monica Leach, associate vice-chancellor for enrollment management at North Carolina Central University, where enrollment has dropped 6 percent since 2010.
Under Obama’s proposal, a full-time community college student could save an average of $3,800 in tuition per year. The effort, according to the White House, would benefit about 9 million students per year “if they earn good grades and stay on track to graduate.”
Leech said it’s too early to tell how Obama’s plan will impact enrollment.
Everett Ward, interim president at St. Augustine’s University, shared Leech’s sentiment. Enrollment at the Raleigh school has fallen 14 percent since 2010.
“You have to understand all aspects of the bill before you can give a definitive answer with regard to harm,” he said. “In any way that financial barriers can be eliminated to help more young people obtain a higher education, I’m supportive of it and the university is supportive of it.”
St. Augustine’s and NCCU cited their relationships with area community colleges, where they also recruit students, and believe those connections will help them if the proposal is instituted.