This is the time of the year that high schools, parents and students are proudly boasting about their acceptance into colleges and universities. Acceptance to highly competitive colleges and universities, like Ivy League schools, dominates headlines in the media and on social media, especially when the student who won that acceptance is a low-income student or a student of color.
While Black, Brown and low-income students’ acceptance into Ivy League or other highly-competitive schools is wonderful, it is only a small piece of the college journey. The costs of post-secondary education are historically high, and it seems like the trend is only growing. Thus, instead of simply celebrating the acceptance of low-income students or students of color into colleges, we also need to celebrate the scholarships and financial aid packages that students receive to attend those schools.
I love seeing all the smiling faces, beaming with pride, with their acceptance letters in hand. However, I am nervous because acceptance to college is probably the least important part of the college experience. Being offered scholarships and a no-loan financial aid package is important—and it’s a story we should be highlighting and celebrating, too.
The cost of college is crushing American students and this is especially true with Black and low-income students. The education debt these students take on is blocking them from moving into the middle class. This at a time when the racial wealth gap means that a White high school dropout has greater net worth than a Black college graduate.
The cost of college is rising while wages have stagnated. This means that college affordability is more out of reach, especially for students who are academically gifted but economically struggling. We need to highlight success stories that feature Black and low-income students who are both accepted to college and receive scholarships and grants that allow them to attend without taking out loans.
It’s more than ironic that we’ve allowed this situation to go on for so long. Our country is better, stronger and more economically viable with a well-educated population. Our country is weaker when we are unable to have our young academics free to do research, start a business, or solve social problems because they have to take any job they can get to pay back college loans.
I want to see more stories like the one last spring, when a Morehouse alum gave the gift of freedom from college debt to the entire 2019 graduating class. And I want to see stories saying 100% of the graduating high school class got full tuition, room and board scholarships to the school of their choice.
After all, college acceptance doesn’t really matter if you can’t afford to attend, or if you won’t make enough money to pay off your loans once you graduate.