Duncan apologizes to black colleges for ‘poor’ communication on parent loans
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan apologized this week to leaders of historically black colleges for the Obama administration’s “poor” communications in a recent switch to tighter standards for issuing loans to parents.
The shift in lending criteria had an outsize impact on those colleges, including Howard University in Northwest Washington, because they serve a large number of students whose parents rely on federal PLUS loans to help cover tuition. Skeptics of the PLUS loan program say it sometimes leaves families in too much debt.
The transition left many college students scrambling for funds in 2012 and this year, forcing some to leave school at least temporarily. Enrollment fell at Howard and many other schools in the fall of 2012, though Howard officials say their student count rebounded this fall.
“Our department is required to carry out the law as it was designed to protect parents and taxpayers against unaffordable loans,” Duncan said in a speech Thursday in Washington to a gathering of leaders of historically black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs. “But we could have and should have handled the process better. Communications internally and externally was poor, and I apologize for that and for the real impact it has had.”
Duncan added: “I have talked with many of the people here in this room about the PLUS loan challenge. It has been hard, it has been frustrating, and I know some of you are angry.”