How petty racism made college unaffordable for everyone

How petty racism made college unaffordable for everyone

The US has consistently gotten white people to vote against themselves by using racism. Here is the story of how petty racism got student loans the size of a home loan.

After the Civil Rights’ Movement, Black and LatinX people started making real progress in higher education.

In the 70s and 80s Latinx and Black students college graduation rates doubled

From 1970 to 1980 college graduation rates for both groups almost doubled.

Enrollment peaked in 1980 and then began to fall.

The federal government decreased the funding to support college students in the 1980s.

This was a 180-degree change in policy when compared to the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In the past the govt provided financial assistance (meaning tuition wasn’t a mortgage payment, because the feds thought it was worth subsidizing) to anyone who wanted to go to college. So what happened?!

In the 1980s the federal government started to greatly defunding higher education

In 1980 Reagan became President and along with his education Czar William Bennett decided everyone wasn’t going to college.

The idea of Black and Latinx people being educated on what was supposed to be a white only benefit was abhorrent to some and a good hook to justify defunding higher ed. Up until around the 1980s taxes paid for a lot of college. Now owing to the gains of the Civil Rights Movement this funding also somewhat benefitted non-white people. Reagan and Bennett were able to spin that into a welfare queen kind of fairytale. This translated into a bunch of “colored” people stealing education that was created initially as a white only benefit.

College was painted as a “Welfare Queen” benefit for Black and Chicano students

This laid the groundwork to defund higher education.

White people from all classes, forgetting that their children also went to these colleges, for the most part went along with this idea, because you know—the Blacks, they get everything…..

Rightwing politicians cut billions of dollars out of Pell Grants and other supports for higher education. Then moved them to bank-based federal loans to burden the individual.

This began the trend of locking the poor and working classes of all races into the chains of student debt.

Racist who voted to defund college to punish Black and Chicanos forgot their children went to those schools too

It changed US colleges from being places that were often the foundation of social change and thought. To instead becoming places where more and more of the focus became on the cost and working for the highest bidder.

Propositions like 13 in California and 2 ½ in Massachusetts continued the bloodletting of our public colleges and the funding that was left went to prisons and crime prevention.

By the aughts in many states funding for the prison industrial complex surpassed spending on higher education.

But was it just race or a coincidence?

Student loans became a necessity for all races of college students

We all know the answer to that, but let us look at an interesting study.

Many public colleges use performance-based funding. A study by Nick Hillman, an associate professor of education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison stated according to Inside Higher Education, “minority-serving institutions in states with performance formulas on average lose ‘significant funding’ on a per-student basis.
When compared with other colleges in those states or with minority-serving ones
in states without performance funding.”

So much for equity and wanting a “diverse’ college experience.

Racism via anti-blackness appears to be the sole reason for lack of not only college funding, but universal health care and other social benefits

In the 2001 paper, “Why Doesn’t the US Have A European-Style Welfare State” it states:

European countries are much more generous to the poor relative to the US level of generosity. Economic models suggest that redistribution is a function of the variance and skewness of the pre-tax income distribution, the volatility of income (perhaps because of trade shocks), the social costs of taxation, and the expected income mobility of the median voter. None of these factors appear to explain the differences between the US and Europe. Instead, the differences appear to be the result of racial heterogeneity in the US and American political institutions. Racial animosity in the US makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately black, unappealing to many voters.

I hope at some point the left, the right, the masses get that racism, oh yeah it is a distraction. It’s a pretty damn effective distraction.

by Teka Lo, Public Intellectual


Carlson, S. (2016). When college was a public good: As the population has grown more diverse, support for grand efforts like the GI bill to open doors to higher education has dwindled. coincidence? The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Fergus, D. (2018). Land of the fee: Hidden costs and the decline of the American middle class. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Haynes, B.L. (2006). Black undergraduates in higher education: An historical perspective. Journal of Metropolitan Universities, 17(2), 8-22.

Subscribe to Public Intellectuals on Patreon for $5 a month! All donations go directly to creating great content and paying contributors!

They Say We’re Different

Written by:

Discourse on politics, economics, race, labor, socioeconomic class, popular culture, and literature.
View All Posts
Follow Me :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Install the Public Intellectuals App

%d bloggers like this: