UNCF Issue Guide: Questions and Answers
Every election season, political candidates visit the campuses of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). This question and answer handout is your resource to help you ask important questions about how candidate’s plan to actively support HBCUs and their students.
A: UNCF encourages Congress to appropriately fund the Pell Grant program to allow the neediest students to attend an institution of their choice debt free.
A: The FAFSA form should be simplified because it is a barrier to boosting college attendance for low-income students and students of color.
Q: What are you doing to improve the federal student loan programs for low-income students?
A: Student and parent loan interest rates should be reduced, and loan origination fees should be eliminated. Loan interest subsidies should also remain for low-income students.
Q: What are you doing to make repaying student loans easier?
A: UNCF advocates for student loan repayment options to be streamlined; income-based loan repayment to remain and be automatic and universal for all borrowers; and for loans to be easier to refinance at lower interest rates.
EQ: How should the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program be improved?
A: This program should be improved and expanded to ensure more students receive forgiveness and reduce any unnecessary burdens on students in the program.
Q: Should student loan borrowers receive financial counseling before they accept the loan?
A: Students and parents should undergo financial aid counseling before accepting the terms and conditions for loans (including undergraduate and graduate subsidized loans and Parent PLUS loans). Institutions should also be required to conduct annual loan counseling for students and make the terms and conditions easier for students and families to understand.
Q: What is your plan to improve the student loan servicer system and ensure they act in a student’s best interest?
A: Student loan servicing contracts should require servicers to properly communicate with and inform borrowers as well as the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The agency should also be required to streamline communications with loan servicers in a manner that is consistent and timely across multiple platforms. And, ED should actively work with states to ensure servicers are in compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations.
Q: How would you implement a stronger Executive Order to ensure full transparency around HBCUs’ relationship with the federal government?
A: UNCF believes that there should be an updated Executive Order requiring all federal agencies to submit an agency plan explaining efforts to work with HBCUs and to report annually and publicly about those efforts.
Q: What are your thoughts about discretionary grant programs for HBCUs in Title III?
A: Discretionary HBCU grant programs should receive full funding from Congress, which would go toward operating support ($375 million), graduate programs ($125 million), endowment challenge grants ($230 million) and capital financing loans ($600 million).
Q: Should HBCUs be included in a national infrastructure plan?
A: HBCUs should be part of a national infrastructure plan because the institutions provide vital educational, economic and community contributions. The U.S. should increase federal support to repair, renovate, construct and acquire HBCU facilities and technology, including the rehabilitation of over 700 HBCU buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. This can be done by providing grants, no- or low-interest loans and tax incentives through a national infrastructure bank and/or the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Treasury.
Q: Do you believe in tuition-free college and, if so, do you believe that it should include both public and private institutions, including HBCUs?
A: UNCF supports college proposals that include both public and private institutions and that significantly reduce or eliminate tuition for HBCU students and all low-income, first-generation college students.
Q: Do you have a plan to ensure formerly incarcerated individuals have meaningful access to post-secondary education?
A: UNCF supports repealing the ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals; removing question 23 from the FAFSA; and eliminating drug convictions as a possible impediment to receiving federal student aid.
Q: Should the tax code be changed to benefit a low-income student’s ability to earn a college degree?
A: The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit should be reformed to expand aid to low- and middle-income families and remove obstacles to claiming education-related tax credits. Students should be allowed to combine Pell Grants and AOTC to address unmet financial need, and low-income students should fully benefit from Pell Grants by excluding all Pell Grant funds from taxable income.
Q: What policies would you implement to ensure HBCUs are treated fairly by the higher educational accreditation system?
A: Equity and fairness should be built into our accreditation system by focusing more on academic outcomes instead of finances. Not all institutions should be held to the same financial standards because not all institutions have had access to large financial resources. Accreditation should reflect flexibility to historical challenges unrelated to the quality of an academic program.