JCSU president: Federal loan program changes hurt historically black institutes

by: Tenikka Smith Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The president of Johnson C. Smith and Rep. Mel Watt joined forces to blast what they call "devastating" changes to a federal loan program.

In 2011, the Department of Education made stricter credit standards for the Parent Plus Loan program and as a result more families were denied.

JCSU president Ronald Carter and Watt held a joint news conference Monday. They said historically black colleges and universities, like JSCU, have been hit especially hard.

Last week, Carter announced $3 million in cuts, including 21 staff layoffs.

According to the United Negro College Fund, nearly 70 percent of Parent Plus Loan applications from historically black colleges and universities for the 2013-14 school year were initially denied.

The UNCF said 39 percent were approved, compared to 48 percent before the tougher credit rules went into effect.

In response to the backlash, the Department of Education revamped its appeals process giving families another chance to qualify. But Watt and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been pushing the Education Secretary to reverse the changes altogether. It's a process that might not go into effect until 2016.

"We will certainly be pushing to make it take effect immediately whatever the change is, but right now we've got to get a commitment to make a change," Watt said.

Channel 9 asked Carter if that means more layoffs and reductions on his campus over the next few years. He said it has already been taken account in the cuts announced last week.

"We developed a 15-point plan with a 5-year projection -- with the understanding we may have to suffer through this until 2017," Carter said.

The UNCF said the education secretary has delayed a decision about the factors that should be considered in the credit requirements for Parent Plus Loans until spring 2014.

Johnson C. Smith officials said it is working to contact families who are eligible to appeal to be reconsidered for the Parent Plus Loans.

Carter said it also has a $10 million fundraising campaign underway to raise money to cover costs for students.