An Open Letter to the Secretary of Education

Dear Mr. Arne Duncan,

To my displeasure I was told that my "EFC rate" was too high to receive enough federal funds to pay for college. My financial aid officer told me that I could apply for the Parent PLUS loan to pay for my remaining costs. I paced over to the computer located in our financial aid office to apply for the loan and less than 3=three minutes after, I read the words, "We regret to inform you". I knew there would be no help for me. I left very angry to my apartment located on campus and called a mentor from my hometown. He said, "Try using your grandmother as a parent to secure the loan since her income is significantly less than your mother's." I said "Yes, sir."

This time, I walked to financial aid with a smile on my face. I walked with all the information that I needed because I knew it would propel me to what I needed. I signed onto the computer in financial aid and again read the words, "We regret to inform you." once again.

After that I tried to apply to private loans because I just knew that something would give. I knew that something would fall the way I needed it to. Several private loans also sent me the words that I knew all too well at this point, "We regret to inform you."

At this point, I write this open letter with a $6,900 bill that I cannot pay hanging over my head. As one who is anticipating to graduate in May, I cannot apply to graduate school because my transcripts are on hold and I cannot graduate if I don't pay my school over $12,000 by May.

I stand for myself and others to say that something must be done in your power to solve this. I'm sure many others are tired of hearing great presentations about the ills of education. It's time for policies to be in effect that will solve the ills. When will we move from profound speeches to powerful policies?

Shockingly, 128,000 students from our nation's HBCUs have been declined Parent PLUS loans. As of Aug. 9, 300 students from Morgan State University were in jeopardy of dropping out because of lack of financial aid. The Education Department recently dropped the maximum income eligibility for Pell Grants to $28,000, making thousands of urban applicants ineligible.

It is an injustice for thousands of students and someone like myself with a 3.3 GPA to be declined from federal aid to pay for school. What will you do for the thousands of students who are faced with a conundrum like this?

Forever indebted to Learning, Love and Liberation,

Robert Hoggard
Founding President of American Baptist College's Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference