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The Hush-Hush Narrative of the Black College Student

Dr. Darryl Scriven speaks to IUPUI, for Black History Month, about the State of the Black College Student.

In your opinion, what is the worth of your education? Why do you seek education when it is so costly? These are a couple of questions raised yesterday. We sat in on the lecture of Dr. Darryl Scriven, writer and producer of State of the Black College Student, a documentary, and co-founder of the African American Family Enrichment Institute, in hopes of getting these questions answered.

Scriven joined IUPUI to celebrate Black History Month by giving a talk discussing the plight of African American college students. He presented his 30-minute documentary, State of the Black College Student, to begin the lecture.

“A profitable education should not be measured in dollars and cents,” said Scriven, “but in power.” In the documentary Scriven describes education as the acquisition of information, and information as power. Your education is intended to prepare you for success. However, Scriven suggests if students are not being taught to handle power their ability to retain success is uncertain. “If I am not being taught to handle power,” said Scriven, “then, am I being taught to be under someone else’s power?”

“Education teaches you your identity,” said Scriven. This is not in a racial context, however. While in college you study English, Sociology, Political Science, Art, History, Economics, etc. Education teaches you who you are in relation to these world subjects and where in which you fit.

The documentary also showed interviews of college students recounting their experiences and providing their opinions. These students spoke to concerns regarding:
• the recession.
• job opportunities upon graduation.
• their ability to create jobs for their communities.
• student loan debt accumulation.

The Recession
The fact that our economy has been in so much turmoil has made it rather difficult for many college students. Students must find means to support themselves, especially when parents are no longer able to provide for them, while still finding time to attend classes and present their best work. Often part-time jobs and internships do not cover room, board and books. Many turn to student loans which present their own list of problems.

Job Opportunities upon Graduation
When taking the recession into consideration, it is expected to be quite difficult to find employment at all, much less in your field of study. It is reported that the average starting salary, in America, across disciplines, is $41,000. So, after studying hard, working hard, dealing with the expenditures associated with college education, and maybe even coping with lingering student loan debt what is a new grad to do?

Creating Jobs for Their Community
Some African American graduates rush off to suburbs and forget where they came from, but many do not. There is a large population of African Americans who wish to provide for their community and assist those who helped them reach their level of success. However, if you graduate already in debt with no foreseeable employment for yourself, how is this possible?

Student Loan Debt Accumulation
The inability to afford college is an echoing deterrent many African Americans cite for neglecting to attend college. The mere idea of taking out students loans is enough to steer people away from the admissions office.

“Sallie Mae is the biggest legal pimp in America,” said of the students in the documentary.

Currently, 81 percent of African American college grads graduate with student loan debt. The average amount of student loan debt upon graduation is $80,000. If you cannot pay back your loans everything you worked so hard for may come crashing down. You can lose your possessions and even your license to practice. If you continue practicing, unaware that your license has been suspended or revoked, you can be placed in jail.

Scriven believes people have been silent about this for far too long and it is time for change. “Silence is betrayal,” said Scriven.

The Solution
People must focus attaining not merely representation, but positions of power. The emphasis should be on becoming great entrepreneurs, creators, innovators, community builders, leaders and collaborators. We should look at the like-minded people around us as not simply classmates, but as future business partners, investors, etc. “The future belongs to those who prepare today,” said another student interviewee.

“Power,” said Scriven, “is the ability to do. Measure college costs in terms of power. If there is nothing to do, there is no power.”

Scriven suggests we rethink what we should get out of college and how we go about paying for it. “People have gotten away from the type of skill acquisition of the past,” said Scriven. He suggests marrying liberal arts with industrial arts and acquiring as many skills as possible. Secure numerous skills that will help rebuild families and help communities. We need to learn how to think and produce, not one or the other.

“You must be able to create multiple streams of revenue for yourself,” said Scriven, “which will help create jobs for your community.”

The monetary cost of our education should mirror its returns. We should gain skills that are marketable locally, nationally and internationally. Learn foreign languages, and open opportunities beyond the borders of the U.S.

“Education is priceless,” said Scriven, “but get what you pay for.”


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