Clinton vs. Sanders on Black Colleges

Michael Stratford, Inside Higher Ed, March 9, 2016

As they battle for voters across the South, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are drawing contrasts between their plans for historically black colleges and universities.

Both candidates last year proposed ambitious plans that would significantly increase federal spending on higher education. And they’re now debating which of those plans would most benefit students at historically black colleges.

In recent weeks, Clinton surrogates have slammed Sanders’s plan to make public colleges tuition free, saying it would harm private black colleges and leave their students “out in the cold.”

“By focusing exclusively on making public college free, Sanders’s plan wouldn’t spend a dime on private HBCUs and threatens roughly 50 percent of HBCUs that are not public,” Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana said last month.

Another Clinton ally, Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, said that Sanders’s call for tuition-free public college would force some private black colleges to close.

“[If] you start handing out two years of free college at public institutions, are you ready for all the black, private HBCUs to close down?” he told BuzzFeed News last month. “That’s what’s going to happen.”

Clinton’s higher education plan calls for $25 billion over 10 years to support private historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions. Her campaign said the plan was modeled after a program that was proposed in Congress last summer as a companion to President Obama’s free community college idea.

That program, proposed by Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia and Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, both Democrats, would send grants to historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions that eliminate or reduce tuition for low-income students pursuing a bachelor’s degree. The grants would cover two years’ worth of the institution’s tuition and fees.

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The Sanders campaign has put out its own HBCU-specific plan, which says that “everyone in America who has the desire and the ability will be able to receive a tuition-free education at a public HBCU.” His campaign noted that 76 percent of students enrolled in historically black colleges attended public ones.

The campaign also said that Sanders is calling for a “$30 billion fund to support private, nonprofit HBCUs, minority-serving institutions and other nonprofit schools.” {snip}

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