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There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the debacle resulting in the changes in the parent PLUS loan program.

The problem is that all of a sudden, loans that were easy to acquire are coming under more scrutiny.  Poor credit ratings by parents are taken into account and sadly, we all know what that means for black folks.

What’s a family to do?  The economy is horrible, houses have been foreclosed on in record numbers and people are out of work.  The hopeful thing should be sending your child to college giving them a better chance at success.  For 90 percent of students at my beloved HBCUs, financial aid  programs like Parents PLUS made it possible.

The average net cost for a full-time student at an in-state public university according to some sources is $8,000 and $16,500 a private college or university.

To say that HBCU students need help

paying for higher education is an understatement. Now, just like that, more than 14,000 HBCU students were not able to enroll in school.

The worse part is that the kids and their parents say they were caught off  guard.

When we reported this story last week, the Text Tom Club blew up.  Here are a few samples:

“My son had one class to graduate. He was turned down after four years. He’s at home now.”


“I received a parent plus loan when my daughter started school. The next term I was denied.  I had been hospitalized and had to stop working so my bills got behind.  Now I have to pay monthly on her bill!”

Johnny C. Taylor, president of and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall Fund, says  HBCUs were blindsided by the new rules.  As a result, a court battle to force the Obama administration to reverse the changes may be in play.

President Obama’s administration tells a different story.  You know us.  We go straight to the source. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, talking to Roland Martin this morning, offered some light at the end of the tunnel.

He admits that the situation could have been handled better and assures parents and students that anyone turned away due to the changes will be offered a similar loan with lower interest rates. Duncan says that everything possible will be done to make sure that every student is back in school in record time.

He also maintains that there’s been no re-interpretation of the rules and the program has always taken into count credit issues.

To his point, any loan program that blindly lends money with no concern over whether it can be paid back starts to look like sub-prime lending. And no one needs more of that.

What we do need is to get kids back in school. It sounds like that’s what President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan want too. There isn’t a perfect solution but at least efforts are being made in the right direction.

You know me, I’m all about kids (and grown folks) going to college…and staying there until they graduate.  If it were up to me, everyone who wanted to go, could for free. But the reality is, that’s not possible. So in the words of Duncan, we have to find the “sweet spot.”

Kids need to go college. College costs a whole lot of money.

And here’s the not so sweet part: Parents have to start earlier at putting something away toward their children’s education. You can’t do it if you’re not working, if you’re ill, or even if you’re not making enough money. But more can than do.  I’m just saying that if the well dries up completely, nobody wins.

“Tom, black women are working student lending. Parents @ HBCUs don’t plan. We need to stress the importance of education before enrollment time. At preschool.”

HBCUs have to step up their games too.

“Financial Aid offices at these HBCU’s should have offered these solutions well before these students lost their aid. This 800 # just didn’t appear today.”


This morning we got hundreds and hundreds of texts asking for the student loan information and I hope by communicating their message to our audience, the administration will see how important it is for them to stay in touch with us on a regular basis.

When decisions are made that make such a huge impact on people’s lives, they can’t be glossed over.

Here’s a text that says it a lot better then I can:

“Good morning! I am one of those parents who applied for the parent plus loan, got denied and got approved for a $32,000 car loan!!! Something is definitely wrong with that…not investing in our kids future. Who will become our doctors, lawyers and teachers? This hurts all of us if we look at the BIG picture.”

She just took us all to school.

Here’s the number and website for you to try and get money if you’ve lost your Parent PLUS loan:  1-800-557-7394 or go to

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