Lift and Climb
For those who attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), the sense of community that existed on their respective campuses is what usually stands out when they remember their school days. Whether one is a Southernite, Gramblingnite or a Morehouse man, HBCU graduates have consistently relied on those who have shared a common experience when it came to obtaining a job or seeking to further their education.
Relying on each other has not changed during this economic recession that is plaguing the entire country, as BlackAlumniLoveConnection.com (BALC), a dating website connecting HBCU graduates, becomes the latest website to assist college students who are struggling to pay tuition by pledging to distribute $30,000 in college scholarships next year through funds from the website’s monthly subscriptions. Monthly subscriptions, which will contribute to the Lift and Climb scholarship program, cost $24.99.
“[BlackAlumniLoveConnection.com has] over 200 members,” said company Vice President Noelle LeVeaux Dugan. We will actually post a call for application submission in the spring, and our first scholarships will be released for the fall 2009 semester.”
Dugan stated that although BALC is not working with any outside sponsors for its scholarship program, “We welcome HBCU alumni to donate to the Lift and Climb program and to become members of BALC. We definitely hope to make connections between HBCU alumni and give back to HBCUs in particular.”
As a result of many organizations and corporations discontinuing loans and scholarships because of the economic crisis, many students are faced with the unenviable task of competing for limited funding to further their education. This fact is extremely significant in the African American community because a tremendous amount of African American college students rely heavily on student loans.
Publisher Mark Katrowitz of the financial aid assistance website FinAid.org said, “In a sense, it’s a liquidity crisis. If lenders can’t get funds from investors, they can’t make the loans. That’s why several of these lenders have left.”
Katrowitz stated that as of spring 2008, 37 lenders had discontinued all or part of their participation in federal loan programs. To make matters worse, reports show that approximately 9 million college students applied for financial assistance in the first two quarters of 2008, which marks an increase of 1.3 million than the previous year.
Furthermore, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that at least 43 states will face shortfalls in their budget, which will limit the amount of money designated for colleges and universities, ultimately forcing those institutions to increase tuition to survive during the recession. According to Fox News 16 in Little Rock, Ark. at least six states are considering mid-year tuition hikes in addition to the 6.4% increase added at the beginning of the school year.
With retention rates extremely low for African American college students, interest is already high for the Lift and Climb scholarship program. “We have received several calls from HBCU students and are looking forward to being able to assist them during the 2009-2010 school year,” said Dugan. It is such assistance that has made the HBCU experience so special for many college students and alumni.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.