Why I Refuse To Pay My Child's College Tuition

Except under one condition.

Photo Credit: Photo: The Atlantic

| March 13 2017,

8:57 pm

As a black millennial, I refuse to pay my future child’s tuition. 

I must start by saying that although I will be a proud HBCU graduate this spring, this is not "PWI vs. HBCU" rhetoric. People have various reasons for attending whatever college they choose. What's important is that black folks get educated, and bring their knowledge back to our people. My future child has the right to go to whatever institution of higher learning they so choose, however, I won't be paying my child's college tuition at all.

Unless they go to an HBCU. 

Before you roll your eyes and get defensive, hear me out.

The history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (often referred to as HBCUs) is rich and telling of the history of black people in this country. Contrary to what Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos alleged, HBCUs are more than just "pioneers of school choice." Before we were allowed to integrate predominately white institutions of higher learning, we had to create our own spaces. HBCUs are filled with such rich history and knowledge, that I believe it's something every black person should experience. However, HBCU's attendance has steadily declined over the years. Why is this? Is it because we feel that our spaces aren't necessary when we can fill theirs? Or is it because people don't realize the affluent heritage that is all around you at an HBCU?

It saddens me when I hear people saying that HBCUs aren't "diverse" or don't train you for the "real world." While these universities are not perfect, they are definitely diverse. You meet people from all walks of life, different creatives, those with different ambitions and (the best part) the majority of them look like you. As someone who came from a predominately white high school, this was the exact environment that I needed to assure myself of my worth as a black woman. The nurturing and loving environment of an HBCU has afforded me some of my greatest opportunities. No, I have not had all the resources that I could have had if I stayed at home and attended a PWI. Yes, I could have flourished at any university I so chose to attend, but at an HBCU, I got the help that I know I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. The vast majority of my professors want to see me succeed, and that is special.

Studies have been done that show that HBCU students are thriving more than black graduates of other schools. A Gallup-USA Funds Minority College Graduates Report found that HBCU graduates are “more likely to prosper after graduation than students who graduate from non-HBCUs.” The study examined 520 black graduates of HBCUs and 1,758 black graduates of other colleges. Gallup looked at five elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. They then asked graduates about their satisfaction with their college experience and current engagement at work. The results were returned and 55 percent of black HBCU graduates said they felt prepared for life after graduation, while only 29 percent of black graduates from other institutions said they felt prepared. Gallup found that HBCU graduates are also most likely to have strong relationships, enjoy what they do each day for work and they are more goal-oriented. However, the biggest gap in well-being among black graduates is in the financial breakdown. The report found that four in 10 black HBCU graduates are more likely to thrive financially while fewer than three in 10 black graduates of other schools can say the same. Of course these statistics are not absolute, seeing that the black educational experience is not a monolith. However, it brings about the question of why the "real world" argument is so often brought up in reference to HBCUs and their alum.

One of the most important reasons that I desire for my children to attend an HBCU is because I know how hard closeted racism is when you are a fly in the milk. Even in recent times, there are still racists acts targeting African Americans happening on college campuses. My friends who attend PWIs often speak on feeling hated in those environments when racial strife is high. I've heard them speak of overtly racist professors and staff. Being at an HBCU, I truly can't relate. That's not to say that HBCU staff is without fault, or that everything that happens on our campuses is never problematic, because that would be a flat out lie. Yet, when it comes to high times of racial strife, it tends to help bring our campuses together because we understand the struggle of being black in America. Of course, there are Black Student Unions and Associations, but there's nothing quite like knowing that the greater part of the entire campus is on the same page as you.

I have to say, no, I have not always been afforded all the same opportunities as my friends at PWIs, nor do I have all the same access to some of the materials that they do. However, my University has taught me survival, perseverance and, more importantly, the beauty of black spaces for us, by us. You can have a black student experience anywhere, but you can only get a black college experience at an HBCU. My future child has the right to go to whatever institution of higher learning that they so choose. However, my hard earned money will only be invested into an HBCU.