On Monday, September 26, BET News will air an exclusive interview with President Barack Obama. In his first sit-down conversation with the network since the economic crisis, the focus is on, who would have guessed, Black America.
Some have said that the president does not address the African-American community enough, and on Monday, it will be "all eyes" on him as he opens up to talk about his community.
No one knows better about the problems facing Black America than African-Americans themselves; therefore, BET went straight to the people via BET.com, Twitter and Facebook to hear what they personally want to know from the commander-in-chief.
“Hello Mr. President…I am 26-years-old, I have two children and I am happily married…My husband makes $9.50 an hour and I have been unemployed for two years,” one comment starts off.
Whether it was about the death penalty, national debt, unemployment, public assistance, or finding a job with a felony, according to our website forum, the questions and issues affecting African-Americans were varied and numbered.
“What hope is there for an African-American family like mine in America? Will my record ever not be used against me, for I have already repaid my debt to society… When can we look forward to living the American Dream?” another man asks.
Some comments were more light-hearted, expressing gratitude for President Obama’s efforts, and others asked that the president do more, but one topic continued to reappear.
“I am a 21-year-old college student, and I'm a bit baffled by the fact that college education is so expensive. It is nearly impossible to better yourself, and live comfortably without proper (higher) education. Yet, inner city and urban individuals, like myself, find it extremely difficult to obtain funding,” ReeH wrote to the president on the BET.com website. “Government grants are being taken away, private loan interest rates are unrealistic, and federal loans are never enough! I never understood why other countries can afford to make their universities free, or why we're allowed to go to school up until 12th grade for no cost, and then forced to pay THOUSANDS of dollars to go any further with education. If you could address this issue, I would be grateful.”
ReeH was not alone in her thinking about the high costs of higher education, however. In fact, many, whether they were students or parents, or teenagers seeing to attend school, expressed their concern about paying for college or being unable to find a job after graduation.
For the 2009–10 academic year, the average annual price for undergraduate tuition, and room and board was estimated to be $12,804 at public institutions and $32,184 at private institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Additionally, over the years there has been an increasing percentage of Black and Latino students attending college. The percentage of college students who were Black rose from 11.3 to 14.3 percent, and the percentage of students who were Hispanic rose from 9.5 to 12.5 percent between 2000 and 2009. However, just because students are entering college, doesn’t mean that they have the financial resources to make it all of the way through, according to many of the viewers' concerns.
Nationally, nearly 60 percent of whites, but only 40 percent of African-Americans, who start college finish in six years, according to Education Trust. One reason many are not finishing is because of the financial burden.
After exhausting all sources of grant aid, the typical low-income student is expected to come up with more than $11,000 a year to attend a public or private nonprofit college, says the organization, but for some, that’s not a realistic amount to pay per year.
“Higher education institutions that place success at the heart of their mission make [graduation] a realistic goal for every student,” said Jennifer Engle, assistant director of higher education at The Education Trust. “For both moral and economic reasons, colleges need to ensure that their institutions work better for all of the students they serve.”
Under President Obama’s administration, the U.S. Department of Education has amplified attention on gender and racial gaps in students’ college enrollment and success rates, aimed to make America the leader in college graduates by 2020, but according to our forum, students need help now.
“What I would like to know is what changes should be implemented to ensure that middle class Americans are receiving fair help in college financial help?” a viewer wrote.
If you have a comment or question you’d like to ask President Obama, add your thoughts to the forum here.
To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.
(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)