The Important Role of HBCUs in Higher Education and Why They Need More Support

Education Landscape

Sallie Mae Hosted Delaware State University President Dr. Tony Allen to Discuss Significance and Support of HBCUs

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) comprise only three percent of the country’s colleges and universities yet produce almost 20% of all African American graduates. In a post-pandemic era with economic challenges disproportionately hitting underserved and underrepresented communities, choosing an HBCU is critical for so many students’ higher education experience.  

Dr. Tony Allen, president of Delaware State University – the state’s only HBCU – and Chair of the Historically Black College and University Advisory Board under President Biden, recently visited Sallie Mae’s Newark headquarters to share insights about the role HBCUs play in advancing access and completion in higher education, and how the private sector can further support those efforts. For Sallie Mae, supporting HBCUs has remained a focus, particularly through scholarship programs and financial education initiatives. Dr. Allen and Sallie Mae Chief Diversity Officer Lori Aiken spoke spiritedly to a standing room only audience and over 500 more telecasted about the value of an education at HBCUs and how they help in building a stronger, more inclusive, higher education system.

Some highlights and key takeaways from that conversation:

1. HBCUs play a critical role in our country.

“Today’s 101 public and private HBCUs graduate more than 300,000 students annually; generate nearly $15 billion in direct economic impact; and produce 80% of Black judges; 40% of Black science professionals; 70% of Black medical professionals, and 40% of Black Members of Congress. In no small measure, HBCUs are the driving forces of Black social mobility, the defining voices of Black America, and a critical part of American global competitiveness,” Dr. Allen said. 

2. Scholarships matter for minority students and students from underserved communities.

Scholarships open the door to higher education for students and families who otherwise may not have access to the opportunities. Delaware State University’s Inspire Scholarship provides a free four years of tuition to qualifying Delaware high school seniors. Students with a 2.75 GPA and a willingness to complete 10 hours of community service each semester are eligible.

Since launching the Inspire Scholarship, Delaware State University has seen a 15% increase in its enrollment.

“Not only are you getting a four-year tuition scholarship, but you’re also getting a quality education and citizenship training that comes with it,” Dr. Allen said.

To help support college access and completion, Sallie Mae partnered with The Thurgood Marshall College Fund to offer $3 million in scholarships to students from underserved communities.

To date, more than $1.5 million has already been awarded to students across the country. More than 70% of recipients of the company’s Completing the Dream Scholarship program — which removes financial barriers in the way of college completion – attended HBCUs.

3. Higher education needs reform to better serve those who need public support.

Dr. Allen shared a few ideas for building a stronger higher education system, speaking about the importance of increasing funding for HBCUs to put them on a more equal playing field with predominantly white institutions.

Dr. Allen also spoke about the importance of colleges increasing their graduations rates — a top focus at Delaware State — and encouraged the federal government to triple the Pell Grant.  Closing gaps in college completion for Black students will take improving graduation rates at HBCUs; changing enrollment patterns so that selective institutions enroll more black students; and increasing the support that students receive in college so that they can persist through graduation day. 

Sallie Mae is proud to be a leader in supporting HBCUs and their students. As the title sponsor of the HBCU Week 2022 College Fair in Walt Disney World – an event that draws more than 3,500 college seeking students to connect with HBCU representatives – Sallie Mae recognizes the significance of HBCUs, their rich history, and the ability to impact thousands of students looking for the opportunity to attend college. It’s opportunities and conversations like these that help Sallie Mae continue to transform into an education solutions company, as is our focus on additional services to support all students to, through, and immediately after college.

Five Ways to Get Ready for Federal Student Loan Repayment

Financial Literacy

Students with federal student loans will start making payments again in January.

When Covid-19 turned America upside down, the federal government put a pause on federal student loan repayment. The program suspended current loan payments and collection on loans in default and interest charges on all federal student loans. The Biden Administration recently announced that the program will end at the close of the year, which means nearly 43 million Americans with federal student loans will resume making regular payments in January.

While some eligible students may have up to $20,000 of their federal student loans forgiven, those with remaining balances need to get ready to begin making payments again. Although Sallie Mae only offers private student loans, many of our customers may also have federal student loans. Whether federal or private, we’re here to help students get ready to repay their loans.

Check out these ways to prepare for the restart of federal student loan repayment.

1. Create a budget

Your federal student loans probably aren’t your only monthly expense. Maybe you’ve just moved into a new place, or you purchased a car to get you to your new job. Consider your total monthly expenses, including rent, groceries and utilities. Sallie Mae can help you get organized and create a plan on how to stay on top of your finances.

2. Verify your contact information

Ahead of your payment date, your federal student loan servicer will reach out to you with important information about your loan and repayment. Make sure your contact information, especially your email and home address, is up to date. Check now by logging into

3. Know how much you owe, and when you owe it

Stay on top of your loan by making sure you know exactly how much you owe and when it’s due. Your payments may not resume on the same day as when you were previously making payments. Look for an email with a billing statement from your federal loan servicer, which should come at least 21 days prior to your payment due date.

Additionally, your payment amount may have changed in the last two years, depending on the remaining time to payback your loan and the current principal and interest balance left. Your billing statement will tell you how much you owe, but you can also find out by logging-in to your account.

4. Confirm enrollment in auto debit

To ensure you make your payments on-time every month, verify your enrollment in automatic payments, known as auto debit. When enrolled, you receive a 0.25 percentage point reduction on your interest rate. Even if you were enrolled in auto debit before the repayment pause, you may have to enroll again. You can sign up through your loan servicer.   

5. Choose a repayment plan

Your financial situation may not look the same as it did two years ago. Find a repayment plan that works for you by using the Department of Education’s loan simulator. Whether you’re looking to pay off your loans faster or you already know you’ll need to lower your monthly payment, there are several repayment options to consider:

  • Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. IDR plans base your loan payments on your income. Requesting an IDR plan could lower your monthly payments.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The PSLF program offers loan forgiveness on federal student loans for full-time employees of U.S. federal, state, local or tribal governments and nonprofit organizations. Employees are eligible once they’ve made 120 payments under a qualifying repayment plan.
  • Request additional relief. If you run into issues making monthly loan payments, contact your federal loan servicer to find out if you qualify for additional relief. For short-term financial hardships, you can request a deferment or forbearance to temporarily suspend payments but understand that may increase what you have to pay back in the long run.

If you have remaining federal student loans to pay back beginning in January, start preparing now to ensure you’re prepared to re-enter repayment as smoothly as possible.