Black Colleges Matter – Newsweek

A graduate cries during a prayer at Howard University’s 2014 graduation ceremonies in Washington, D.C. Black colleges are facing tough times as endowments shrink and African-American students enroll elsewhere. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS


Medgar Evers College, an overwhelmingly black branch of the City University of New York, sits atop a hill in central Brooklyn. It is across the street from the mustard-colored high-rises of the Ebbets Field Apartments, named for the long-gone baseball field where the Brooklyn Dodgers played until 1957, and where Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947. Medgar Evers is a cluster of newish glass-and-brick buildings that radiate competence and promise. The college’s crest shows the scales of justice, a lamp and a pair of hands struggling against shackles.

Medgar Evers is not one of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) discussed by journalist Ron Stodghill in his new book Where Everybody Looks Like Me: At the Crossroads of America’s Black Colleges and Culture. Its plight, however, aligns almost perfectly with the ailments Stodghill diagnoses at those paragons of black scholarship in the South and the Midwest, where the vast majority of HBCUs are located. Medgar Evers may not be the equal of Howard University, but if Stodghill is right, both schools are heading down the same perilous path, taking black aspirations with them.

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As is often the case at HBCUs, many students at Medgar Evers are the first in their families to attend college. Few Evers students, however, graduate: According to U.S. News & World Report, its four-year graduation rate is only 4 percent, about five times less than the average at non-flagship American public institutions (some of this may be because of the school’s open admissions policy). Overall, no HBCU had a graduation rate higher than 70 percent as of last year, with Spelman (69 percent) and Howard (65 percent) coming closest. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, which compiled the statistics, found that the bottom half of HBCUs had a graduation rate of no higher than 34 percent. This may be in line with public flagship universities (36 percent), but below the Northeastern colleges whose equals the HBCUs have long aspired to be. Yes, the HBCUs graduated the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Alice Walker, Ralph Ellison and Oprah Winfrey, but whom are they graduating today?

Not only are fewer students graduating HBCUs, many fewer are choosing to attend them. HBCUs made much more sense in 1925 than 2015, when a top-notch black student may find herself choosing between, say, Spelman, Oberlin and Cornell. What can Spelman offer her that the predominantly white institutions can’t? As recently as four decades ago, Stodghill writes, some 80 percent of black students attended an HBCU; today, that figure is a mere 9 percent.

Colleges without students do as well as airlines without passengers, and as black students snub HBCUs, HBCUs face the first true existential crisis in their collective history. St. Paul’s College, in Lawrenceville, Virginia, has closed; Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee, has sold off half its stake in an art collection left to it by Georgia O’Keeffe. Morris Brown College, in Atlanta, was stripped of its accreditation in 2002 and was limping along with only 35 students last year.

HBCU administrators often take the blame, though the ship rarely goes down from captain error alone. At Medgar Evers, President William L. Pollard was ousted two years ago, accused, as the The New York Times put it, of acting “without an appreciation for the institution’s history.” Among his early transgressions was “switching the campus automated teller machines from the black-run Carver Federal Savings Bank to Citibank,” according to a Times report on his tumultuous first year. His appeals to long-term planning and cost-cutting were met with suspicion from those who loved the place with all its imperfections. “The administration is out of character with anything we need,” one professor complained.

That same year, Howard President Sidney A. Ribeau was forced to resign for strikingly similar reasons. The Washington Post noted that his departure came in an autumn of developments that “many Howard boosters found dispiriting: a drop for the university in a major national ranking and a downgrade in its credit rating. It also came a year after enrollment at the university suddenly fell 5 percent.” He was accused of enriching himself and top administrators while starving the university. Stodghill capably chronicles the school’s troubles, from the missing Academy Award of Hattie McDaniel to the recent travails of the university’s hospital, a fabled institution that once treated freed slaves but whose $37 million annual losses were responsible for a downgrading of Howard’s credit rating in 2014.

Most Americans are only marginally concerned with the state of higher education, but Stodghill argues that the decline of the HBCU is a national crisis, not just a black one, and that we should all care. “It is hard to imagine a single greater threat to the future of African-Americans than the demise of its higher education system,” he writes. Stodghill, who is African-American and teaches at an HBCU in North Carolina, isn’t downplaying the issues of discriminatory policing and excessively punitive criminal justice that, others would argue, are far more threatening to the prospects of black America. He argues, instead, that HBCUs are the “main artery connecting to the heart of black America.” Sever it, and the race cannot survive.

The nation’s first college for African-Americans began in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth (today, Cheney University), about 20 miles west of Philadelphia. Most HBCUs, though, were founded during Reconstruction “to educate some half-million newly freed slaves,” Stodghill writes. Howard University was founded in 1867 and has long been sustained by a congressional appropriation, now totaling $223 million per year. All-men’s Morehouse College was founded that same year, in Atlanta, while all-women’s Spelman College was founded in 1881 next door. Together, the three formed a sort of mini Ivy League for black students who wouldn’t be allowed into those great patrician colleges of the Northeast. The Harvard Man had an equal in the Morehouse Man.

The most famous HBCU, though, may be a fictional one. In 1987, A Different World premiered on NBC, introducing the nation to Hillman College, attended by Cosby Show scion Denise Huxtable. Stodghill argues that the show “did more to attract black college kids to black campuses than those ‘A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste’ public service announcements ever could.” While acknowledging the recent grave accusations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby, he describes the embattled actor as one of the nation’s most vociferous (if sometimes hectoring) proponents of black intellectualism. The $20 million gift Cosby and his wife made to Spelman in 1988 remains an act of unrivaled generosity in the HBCU world.

“If we can tithe for our churches, we can tithe for our schools,” Spelman’s president at the time said of the gift. But that hasn’t happened. The Cosbys’ largesse aside, HBCUs don’t attract large philanthropic gifts. This may be because many of those who attend HBCU come from less wealthy households, but that doesn’t explain it all: Some psychological hesitation is obviously at work. When the musician and entrepreneur Dr. Dre donated $35 million to the University of Southern California in 2013, many saw it as a betrayal of his people. “I can’t help but wish that Dre’s wealth, generated as it was by his largely black hip-hop fans, was coming back to support that community,” lamented the president of Dillard University in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.

The head of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund quips to Stodghill that “our funding comes from Republican rich white guys and their wives,” an apparent reference to the $25 million gift from the Koch brothers to the United Negro College Fund in the summer of 2014. This clearly dismays Stodghill, who calculates that “HBCUs boast 2 million living alumni; if 2 million graduates pledged even a hundred dollars a year, HBCUs could build endowments all over the country. But for some reason, blacks refuse to fund our own schools.”

The federal government hasn’t made life for HBCUs easier, adding stricter credit rating requirements to the crucial Parent PLUS loan program in 2011 while also reducing by six semesters the length of Pell Grants, on which close to 90 percent of HBCU students are estimated to rely. If neither the private nor the public sector will rescue the HBCUs, who will?

One administrator tells Stodghill that “the HBCU president has the toughest job in higher ed. We’ve got the same expectations, but not even near the resources of the people you’re competing with.” Brown, the poorest of the Ivies, has an endowment of $3.2 billion; Howard, the wealthiest of the HBCUs, has an endowment one-fifth of that, $586.1 million.

The intellectual value of an HBCU education is coming into question too. The old “teacher and preacher” model of instruction, which recalls an antiquated black culture, is out of sync with the demands of the 21st century. Stodghill talks to a Morehouse professor who laments that “most HBCUs curriculums today do not emphasize discussion and debate.” The professor says he has his students approach classroom work “like an Ivy League school,” the implication being that many of his peers do not.

Stodghill, who’s never particularly optimistic in his book, points to an estimate that there will be only 35 HBCUs in 2035, down from 104 today (some put the number at 106). Of those, Stodghill writes, only 15 will be “actually thriving.” The rest will continue to shrink, consolidate or close, disappearing eventually from the landscape of American higher education, taking a vital part of our shared national history with them.

Perhaps the HBCUs’ decline is a sign that our society truly is becoming post-racial. Note that neither America’s first African-American president nor the first lady have ties to an HBCU: President Obama went to Columbia, his wife, Michelle, went to Princeton. In fact, many of the nation’s most prominent African-Americans also have ties to the Ivy League: Shonda Rhimes (Dartmouth), Loretta Lynch (Harvard), John Legend (Pennsylvania), Neil deGrasse Tyson (Harvard), Eric Holder (Columbia).

“One of the byproducts of racial segregation,” Stodghill writes, “was that black colleges enjoyed a critical mass of really smart students and really bright teachers whose options were also limited.” To romanticize segregation is an odd position, but Stodghill isn’t the first to wax nostalgic for a fiercely ambitious black cultural unity in the face of a prevalent white hatred.

Today, that kind of unity isn’t necessary and, in fact, may be seen a sign of weakness or parochialism. Like the Lower East Side Jews of earlier generations who spurned “the Harvard of the Proletariat” that was the City College of New York for the actual thing in Cambridge, Ivy-bound blacks like those aforementioned wanted to—and did—prove themselves in the highest echelons of the white establishment.

Yet an argument for HBCUs remains. According to the UNCF, black colleges produce 70 percent of all black dentists and doctors, 50 percent of black engineers and public school teachers, and 35 percent of black lawyers. And while HBCUs account for only 3 percent of the nation’s colleges, they account for about 20 percent of the degrees awarded to African-Americans.

There is a less quantifiable argument too. When, several months ago, video emerged of fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma singing a racist chant, it offered a stinging reminder that just because black students are allowed into predominantly white institutions, they are not always welcome in them. Stodghill writes of one black corporate lawyer who was raised in relative privilege in the 1980s and went to the University of Michigan, only to transfer to Florida A&M University, an HBCU in Tallahassee. When asked later what it was like to attend FAMU, he answered, “Probably what it feels like to be a white dude at the University of Michigan.”

This article is part of the Newsweek High School Rankings series. Read more:

America’s Top High Schools 2015 | FAQ | Methodology

FILED UNDER: U.S., College, Colleges and Universities, Education, Higher Education, High Schools 2015


HS Students Get Paid for Grades…LOOK! HS Students Can Now Earn Money for College — No Job Required – CNN Money

SEVERAL HBCU’S ARE ON THIS LIST!  WE NEED MORE TO JOIN IN! is in on this and very excited about it!  In the process of gathering more information to report on current HBCU participation and how HBCU’s can partner with this scholarship source.  More to come!  Until then, LOOK..!

How one high schooler made $80K (without getting a job) – CNN Money Sep. 18, 2015 developed a program that allows high school students to start banking college scholarship money.

What’s the catch?

The money is tied to students’ individual achievements. The better they do in school, the more engaged they are with their communities, the more money they earn from’s college partners.
There are 76 colleges on’s platform, including Penn State, UMass and Tulane. cofounder Preston Silverman hopes to increase that to 100 colleges by the end of the year.
As long as students meet the college’s GPA requirements, they can start earning money from as many as they choose — between $500 to $1,000 per achievement. Students don’t get the money until they are accepted to one of the colleges.


Related: This is how you make math fun

Abby Saxastar raised $80,000 on, which will fully cover her tuition at Stetson University, a private college in central Florida.
“I’ve always been very successful in school and I’ve also done a lot of volunteer work,” said Saxastar. “But I still had to figure out how to pay for college.”

Saxastar learned about the program a few months before she graduated high school in June, but the program allows students to retroactively include information. So even as a senior, Saxastar could log her grades and activities for the past four years.

“My family is digging through some debt and taking out loans for my other expenses,” she said. “So getting this scholarship has been amazing.”

Related: The White House likes these colleges best

Saxastar is one of 60,000 students from 5,000 high schools who have signed up with since it launched in August 2014. The startup has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook (FB, Tech30).
Colleges committed a total of $1 billion in scholarships in the first year, but Silverman said there isn’t data on how much of this was actually paid out to students. The goal is to make scholarships available to students who may not otherwise pursue them.

“Most scholarships today are awarded at the very end of high school. It’s too late to influence a student’s college search and application process,” he said.

Silverman said colleges are on board because it helps them reach students much earlier in the selection process.

Related: Here’s the difference between you and the class of 2019

Beatriz Zayas is head counselor at the Southwest High School in El Centro, California, a city on the border with Mexico and Arizona. It’s a predominantly rural area, and 90% of the 2,100 students are Hispanic.

“A high percentage are from low-income families, but we’re hoping they will become first-generation college students,” said Zayas.
. could become a critical part of that. There are 60 students at Southwest currently enrolled in the program. Zayas said they opted to focus on a small International Baccalaureate class first, in order to provide the necessary support.
“It’s putting good colleges on the radar of families who wouldn’t have known about them otherwise,” she said.

Although doesn’t target a specific demographic, Silverman said 49% of students on the platform are from low-income families.

A few colleges, including Florida International University, are even offering scholarships specifically to these students.
The university plans to partner with this year to target low-income Florida high schools.

“With many first-generation families, their socioeconomic barriers prevent them from taking advantage of a lot of things,” said Luisa Havens, vice president of enrollment services with Florida International University. “ is perfect way to give them access to opportunity.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of colleges currently using’s platform. There are 76, not 26.
CNNMoney (New York) September 18, 2015: 1:52 PM ET

via How one high schooler made $80K (without getting a job) – Sep. 18, 2015.

Black Colleges Become Sanctuaries After Ferguson – The National Journal

Black Colleges Become Sanctuaries After Ferguson

By: Donovan X. Ramsey – The National Journal – September 10, 2015   Reblogged by

COURTESY MOREHOUSE COLLEGE OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS (Population 2043: Each month, Next America visits a different community to explore how it is responding to changing demography.)

In the midst of a terse na­tion­al con­ver­sa­tion about po­lice vi­ol­ence against Black Amer­ic­ans came news that More­house Col­lege, my alma ma­ter and the na­tion’s only all-male his­tor­ic­ally Black col­lege, wel­comed one of its largest fresh­man classes.

More­house is not alone in see­ing a surge in ad­mis­sions in the past year. EDU Inc., which ad­min­is­ters Com­mon Black Col­lege, an on­line tool used to ap­ply to 42 of the more than 100 his­tor­ic­ally Black col­leges and uni­versit­ies with a single form, pro­cessed 10 per­cent more ap­plic­a­tions for the 2015-2016 school year than last year. Pres­id­ent Robert Ma­son says that after a year of news of po­lice killings of young Black Amer­ic­ans, Black stu­dents—Black males in par­tic­u­lar—are look­ing for safe spaces.

New­s­week has run two pieces in the past few weeks de­clar­ing “Black Col­leges Mat­ter.”  Aside from de­bat­ing the aca­dem­ic value of HB­CUs and doc­u­ment­ing their tra­di­tions, which The New York Times did re­cently, it’s im­port­ant that these schools are also ac­know­ledged for the unique safety and se­cur­ity they of­fer young Black people.

“I think it can reas­on­ably be con­cluded that safety factors in­to the de­cision-mak­ing pro­cess when stu­dents are de­cid­ing what col­lege to at­tend,” Ma­son said. “I would con­tend that the heightened sense of fear con­cern­ing the safety of Black males has giv­en im­petus to par­ents now em­ploy­ing the same kind of lo­gic that is used to de­term­ine if a col­lege and the sur­round­ing area is safe enough to al­low their daugh­ters to at­tend. Be­fore the in­creased me­dia cov­er­age of vi­ol­ence against Black males and the na­tion­al dia­logue that has en­sued, I don’t think safety was as much of a con­cern for black males when de­cid­ing what col­lege to at­tend.”

“Behind these gates, I feel so safe. I really do. I feel like black people in America have an understanding between each other and there’s relative safety among the group. ”

In Feb­ru­ary, act­ress Ta­raji P. Hen­son made head­lines when she told Up­town Magazine that she was trans­fer­ring her son to her alma ma­ter after he’d been ra­cially pro­filed at the Uni­versity of South­ern Cali­for­nia.
“So guess where he’s go­ing? Howard Uni­versity,” she told Up­town. “I’m not pay­ing $50K so I can’t sleep at night won­der­ing is this the night my son is get­ting ra­cially pro­filed on cam­pus.”

Fol­low­ing Hen­son’s rev­el­a­tion, Es­sence con­duc­ted a poll ask­ing par­ents if they prefer that their chil­dren at­tend an HB­CU. Nearly 80 per­cent said “yes.”
In his first ad­dress to the class of 2019, More­house Pres­id­ent John S. Wilson spoke of the chal­lenges and dangers black men face. “Ac­cord­ing to The New York Times, there are 1.5 mil­lion miss­ing black men in this coun­try,” he poin­ted out. “When you were in ninth grade, there were 320,000 black boys with you, na­tion­ally. Roughly only 160,000 gradu­ated from high school. And of those, only about 50,000 ap­plied to a four-year col­lege.”

Drummers from Howard University’s Marching Band perform during the National Urban League’s ‘Drum Majors for Justice Future Leaders Celebration’ commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at Freedom Plaza. SAUL

One of the most mov­ing mo­ments dur­ing their ori­ent­a­tion week at More­house is the Par­ent Part­ing Ce­re­mony in which in­com­ing fresh­men, their par­ents, alumni and More­house of­fi­cials as­semble in the chapel. Par­ents are asked to re­lease their sons in­to the hands of “Moth­er More­house.” The com­munity makes a pledge to care for the new stu­dents, and par­ents are in­struc­ted to de­part im­me­di­ately after. Many fam­il­ies shed tears dur­ing the ritu­al.
Nate Ervin, 18, entered More­house this fall to study polit­ic­al sci­ence. He ap­plied to eight schools, four HB­CUs and four pre­dom­in­antly white in­sti­tu­tions. He was ac­cep­ted to all of them but says he chose to at­tend More­house be­cause of its fo­cus on up­lift­ing black men.

“ I would contend that the heightened sense of fear concerning the safety of black males has given impetus to parents now employing the same kind of logic that is used to determine if a college and the surrounding area is ‘safe’ enough to allow their daughters to attend.”


Morehouse students attend an event on campus.                                               JOHN RAMSPOTT/FLICKRter­ca­tion.”

“Be­hind these gates, I feel so safe. I really do,” says Ervin. “I feel like black people in Amer­ica have an un­der­stand­ing between each oth­er and there’s re­l­at­ive safety among the group.”
Dani­elle Bro­g­don, 18, is study­ing me­dia, film and journ­al­ism at Howard with a minor in Afric­an-Amer­ic­an stud­ies. She says she thought about study­ing at New York Uni­versity or North­west­ern, but was at­trac­ted to Howard for its net­work of alumni in me­dia but for its pro­tec­tions.

“I have a friend in school in Nashville and she was telling me how she’s wor­ried,” says Bro­g­don. “Nashville is not the black­est com­munity and it’s in the South. She feels like she has to be ex­tra aware of who’s around her and how she in­ter­acts. She’s wor­ried about things like how her school would pro­tect her if she was in an altercation.”

In a so­ci­ety that des­per­ately wants to be post-ra­cial, many ask if HB­CUs are still rel­ev­ant. It’s this sen­ti­ment that per­haps has al­lowed for a mass di­vest­ment from HB­CUs in the 21st cen­tury. In fact, des­pite the con­tin­ued and very evid­ent need for HB­CUs in edu­cat­ing black stu­dents, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has been slowly chip­ping away at fund­ing in re­cent years.
In­deed, I have nev­er felt more se­cure as a black man than I did as a stu­dent on More­house’s cam­pus.

As the na­tion’s only in­sti­tu­tion of high­er edu­ca­tion foun­ded to serve us, it is a rare space where black men are not vul­ner­able be­cause of their black­ness.  On the con­trary, at More­house and oth­er HB­CUs, black men and wo­men are pro­tec­ted – by a cam­pus po­lice force no less. On cam­pus – and for the first time in my life – I was free to run full speed without caus­ing alarm. I raised my voice in pub­lic, as­ser­ted my­self without in­cit­ing pan­ic. My black­ness did not render me sus­pi­cious or scary. I could in­hab­it every square inch of my six-foot, 200-pound body without risk­ing my life.

HB­CUs are rare Amer­ic­an in­sti­tu­tions in that they are main­tained for the af­firm­a­tion, ad­vance­ment and pro­tec­tion of black life. In a so­ci­ety in which young black people, men and wo­men, have their lives cut short every day by in­car­cer­a­tion and vi­ol­ence – state or oth­er­wise – the schools are sanc­tu­ar­ies from a world at war with black bod­ies.

In his best­selling book, Between the World and Me, au­thor Ta-Ne­hisi Coates de­scribes his ex­per­i­ence at his HB­CU alma ma­ter in such terms. Ad­dress­ing his teen­age son, Coates writes, “My only Mecca was, is, and shall al­ways be Howard Uni­versity. I have tried to ex­plain this to you many times. You say you hear me, that you un­der­stand, but I am not sure that the force of my Mecca—The Mecca—can be trans­lated in­to your new ec­lect­ic tongue. I am not even sure that it should be… And still, I main­tain that even for a cos­mo­pol­it­an boy like you, there is something to be found there — a base, even in these mod­ern times, a port in the Amer­ic­an storm.”

In a society in which young black people, men and women, have their lives cut short every day by incarceration and violence – state or otherwise – the schools are sanctuaries from a world at war with black bodies.

Donovan X. Ramsey, a multimedia journalist, is currently a Demos Emerging Voices Fellow.

HB­CUs, with about an eighth of the av­er­age en­dow­ment of oth­er in­sti­tu­tions and half re­ceiv­ing no fed­er­al fund­ing, op­er­ate primar­ily on rev­en­ue from tu­ition. Those stu­dents, however, rely heav­ily on fed­er­al loan and grant pro­grams to af­ford col­lege, with more than sev­en out of every 10 HB­CU stu­dents re­ceiv­ing Pell grants. An equal share takes out fed­er­al loans—about 20 per­cent high­er than the na­tion­al av­er­age. This means that HB­CUs are deeply im­pacted by changes in fed­er­al fin­an­cial aid policy.

In 2011, the De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion re­duced the total num­ber of semesters for which stu­dents could re­ceive Pell grants from 18 to 12 semesters. The cut was felt deeply at HB­CUs where stu­dents, on av­er­age, take longer to gradu­ate. The same year, the DOE also tightened eli­gib­il­ity for Par­ent PLUS loans, a form of aid used in great num­ber by HB­CU stu­dents and fam­il­ies to fin­ance their edu­ca­tion. These sud­den, sim­ul­tan­eous changes cre­ated a crisis on HB­CU cam­puses around the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to ana­lys­is by the United Negro Col­lege Fund, an es­tim­ated 28,000 HB­CU stu­dents were denied loans in 2012, res­ult­ing in a col­lect­ive loss of about $155 mil­lion in tu­ition rev­en­ue—re­du­cing in­sti­tu­tion­al budgets by 35 per­cent.

In 2010, the year be­fore the cuts, HB­CUs ex­per­i­enced their highest levels of en­roll­ment in the nearly 40 years the De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion has been keep­ing track. In 2010, 265,908 stu­dents were en­rolled at HB­CUs across the coun­try. That num­ber has de­clined stead­ily every school year since.

Last month, pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Hil­lary Clin­ton an­nounced a pro­pos­al to per­haps undo some of that dam­age by cre­at­ing a ded­ic­ated $25 bil­lion fund to sup­port to private non­profit schools that serve low-in­come stu­dents, of which private HB­CUs are an ex­ample.

   Apple Pledges $40 Million to HBCUs in Scholarships and Support

The tech company wants to recruit and retain talented black students, offering $25,000 and an internship.

To be sure, HB­CUs are not per­fect in­sti­tu­tions and cer­tainly are not sac­rosanct be­cause they serve a be­lea­guered pop­u­la­tion.

They’re worth pro­tect­ing and sup­port­ing, however, be­cause they punch above their weight when it comes to gradu­at­ing low-in­come stu­dents and stu­dents of col­or. The more than 100 HB­CUs around the coun­try en­roll nearly 10 per­cent of of black un­der­gradu­ates but award 16 per­cent of the bach­el­or’s de­grees earned by black Amer­ic­ans, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion Stat­ist­ics. In ad­di­tion, HB­CUs pro­duce 70 per­cent of all black dent­ists and doc­tors, 50 per­cent of black en­gin­eers and pub­lic school teach­ers, and 35 per­cent of black law­yers, ac­cord­ing to stats from the UN­CF.

Mar­cel­lis Wil­burn, 18, says he chose Howard be­cause he wanted to pur­sue a ca­reer in crim­in­al justice. Thur­good Mar­shall’s alma ma­ter, he thought, would be a smart place to be­gin the road to be­com­ing a pro­sec­utor then judge.
“I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in go­ing to Howard be­cause of its law school,” says Wil­burn.

He says that mon­it­or­ing high-pro­file in­cid­ents of po­lice bru­tal­ity over the past year in­formed his view of the crim­in­al justice sys­tem and made him worry more about his safety in in­ter­act­ing with po­lice of­ficers.

“A typ­ic­al traffic stop could be a life or death situ­ation, be­cause po­lice are get­ting out of hand with Afric­an-Amer­ic­an men and wo­men,” says Wil­burn. “I feel safer on Howard’s cam­pus than I prob­ably would on an­oth­er cam­pus be­cause, here at Howard, our po­lice of­ficers and most of the of­ficer who at­tend to cer­tain situ­ations are Afric­an Amer­ic­an. I feel more com­fort­able.”

In a mo­ment when the na­tion is fi­nally fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion to the is­sue of po­lice vi­ol­ence against black Amer­ic­ans, black col­leges are be­ing re­cog­nized for the re­l­at­ive safety they af­ford their stu­dents, en­sur­ing that HB­CUs will re­main rel­ev­ant as unique spaces for in­tel­lec­tu­al, psy­cho­lo­gic­al and phys­ic­al free­dom.



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C-SPAN: Video of Fisk University President H. J. Williams Interview

FEBRUARY 10, 2015  C-SPAN  Fisk University

Dr. JH Williams Fisk“>
H. James Williams talked about Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Among other topics he discussed his teaching background before becoming a university president, what he looks for in teachers, and how he markets the university to students.

This program was part of a February 2015 “Washington Journal”-C-SPAN Bus tour series on historically black colleges and universities.

HBCU Stakeholders List Financing Programs, Affordability as Top Issues – Higher Education


HBCU Stakeholders List Financing Programs, Affordability as Top Issues

Category: Black Issues,Featured,News | 

by Autumn A. Arnett

Dr. Earl S. Richardson, president emeritus of Morgan State University, says that the failure of President Obama to “address the issue of equity in funding for the Black colleges and equal opportunity for the students they serve is (an) abomination.”

Many in and around the historically Black college and university (HBCU) community recently have publicly pondered the state of the institutions as a whole—and much of the narrative has not been positive. Between a dearth of confidence in leadership, a lack of advocacy at all levels, and local problems such as declining enrollment and concerns over institutional ability to compete in an ever-changing higher education landscape, much of the public discourse about HBCUs has been less than optimistic about the future viability of these institutions as a whole.

“It’s very di­fficult to think about HBCUs as one unit, because they’re so vastly different,” says Dr. Ivory Toldson, deputy director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. “There are some HBCUs that are really standing out and some HBCUs that I’m really concerned about.”

However, overall, Toldson says, “I’m optimistic about the future of HBCUs in general.”

But this general optimism is not a sentiment shared by all.

Dr. William Harvey, president of Hampton University and chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, decried the lack of support from the federal government on behalf of HBCUs in a September speech in Washington, D.C. In his remarks to open the White House Initiative on HBCUs’ annual HBCU Week, Harvey said, “We face enormous challenges. These are difficult times for our institutions, our students and their families.”

HBCUs’ statuses

In the 2014 State of HBCUs Report, a survey of 105 HBCU stakeholders, including 28 current and former presidents and administrators, listed financing university programs as the top challenge faced by the HBCU community, with affordability and insu­fficient leadership/governance running close behind.

An early draft of the 2012 annual report on the participation of HBCUs in federal programs suggests that funding to HBCUs has experienced a downturn, compared to all institutions of higher education, in recent years.

In 2007, HBCUs were awarded $1,253,719,673 in grants from federal departments and agencies, compared to $34,936,125,000 overall—3.59 percent of all funds awarded. Following a boost in 2008 to 3.74 percent ($1,376,998,620 out of an overall $36,776,779,000 awarded), there has been a fairly steady decline in federal funding to the HBCU community (with the exception of 2011) through 2012, the most recent year for which data are available.

According to Harvey, the impact of this trend has been felt on HBCU campuses.

“Federal support for HBCUs is showing an alarming downward trend, and our friends in Washington need to know that we are watching and counting,” he said in September. “… Over the last several years, all of the major Title IV programs had modifications and adjustments, which make it much harder for HBCUs to get funding. We all know of the Parent PLUS debacle that resulted in these loans to our students being down.

“Pell grants to our students are down. Direct loans to our students are down. Graduate subsidies were eliminated. In addition to student support, overall support to Black colleges is down. All of these changes had a significant impact in terms of availability of funding for students.”

Toldson says that many of these decreases in funding are the result of cyclical economic changes felt by the entire nation.

“In many ways, HBCU funding mirrors the economy, which was falling off a fiscal cliff near the end of the Bush administration, recovered through stimulus and reinvestment at the beginning of (the) Obama administration, however, has yet to make a full recovery,” Toldson says. “I’m hoping that we can get those numbers moving in a positive direction, but as we examine the last five years, we need to look at the highs and lows to get the best perspective.”

But many in the HBCU community have been disappointed by the Obama administration’s lack of advocacy on their behalf. Several HBCU stakeholders have mentioned the wish that the president would take a firm, vocal stand in favor of HBCUs, similar to the one he has taken on community colleges. Of those surveyed for the State of HBCUs Report, 38.5 percent say they believe the president “means well, but doesn’t get it” and an additional 35.6 percent say they don’t believe HBCU issues are on his radar at all.

“The failure of (the) president to address the issue of equity in funding for the Black colleges and equal opportunity for the students they serve is (an) abomination and its impact will be multiplied many times over,” says Dr. Earl S. Richardson, president emeritus of Morgan State University, and a supporter of the Maryland HBCU lawsuit, which was filed in 2006 on behalf of Maryland’s public HBCUs: Morgan State University, Coppin State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Bowie State University.

The suit asserted that the state had failed its obligation to make its HBCUs comparable and competitive to the traditionally White public institutions in the state.

“That indifference has now spread to the various federal agencies, corporations, foundations and other philanthropic organizations,” Richardson says. “The result is a shift in funding from the HBCUs to traditionally White institutions to educate minorities and to conduct research on Blacks and the Black institutions. … It threatens to do irreparable damage to the reputation and cause of both HBIs [historically Black institutions] and the Black community as a whole. This administration seems prepared to fight the cause of everyone but Black people.”

Indeed, 47.1 percent of those surveyed say they’d like to see stronger advocacy from the president on behalf of the community. But the blame does not stop with the president himself; 58.1 percent say they’d like to see stronger consideration of HBCUs from Education Secretary Arne Duncan and 70.5 percent would like stronger advocacy on their behalf from the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

Stronger representation

Encompassed in the lack of advocacy at the federal level is what many in the HBCU community believe is a lack of representation at the policy table. Of those surveyed, nearly two-thirds, 66 percent, say they believe HBCU leaders are often excluded from broader conversations about higher education. An additional 23 percent say that there is a seat available but HBCU leaders do not take full advantage.

“Only select private HBCUs are asked to engage in federal policy conversations,” says Dr. Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, president of Central State University in Ohio. Jackson-Hammond’s sentiments are similar to those of others surveyed.

But, Jackson-Hammond says, some of the onus is on the HBCU leadership. Saying she believes that HBCU leaders do a great job of communicating the challenges and triumphs on campus when asked but do not do well at initiating communication, Jackson-Hammond says some of the burden is on HBCUs to better tell their stories.

“Traditional HBCUs must be more engaged in telling (their stories) of performance and excellence. When resources are limited or restrictive, the focus for institutions is to simply ‘get the job done.’ The focus has not been on touting the accolades of the institutions,” Jackson-Hammond says.

Harvey agrees. “Now more than ever, we need to support our own institutions and let our voices be heard,” he said in Washington in September.

Some would argue telling the stories is easier said than done. Sixty percent of survey respondents say they don’t believe HBCUs have numerous outlets and channels to make their voices heard on a national level. And even among those that agree that the channels exist, there are questions about the extent to which HBCUs leverage them. Lack of a unifying message, for instance, is one issue.

“While there are numerous options for HBCUs to project their voices, there is lack of coordination that will be necessary for HBCUs to effectively ensure their continued viability as a unit,” says Bartholomew J. Worthington III, an Oakwood College alumnus.

But, as Toldson notes, it is difficult to rally around a unifying message when the needs and conditions of the schools vary so greatly. ­The plight of state schools—which are facing decreased state funding almost across the board, particularly in states like Louisiana and South Carolina—is different than that of their private counterparts.

Some schools, like Xavier University in New Orleans, have reinvented their value proposition to position themselves as more competitive. A select few others, including Wilberforce University, are fighting accreditation battles.

Survey respondents are torn on whether they believe HBCUs should have to reinvent themselves to compete. Forty-eight percent say no, but 36.3 percent believe it is a necessary move to ensure future competitiveness in the broader landscape.

Dr. James A. Anderson, chancellor of Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, says HBCUs “need to engage in a strategic planning process that defines what it means to be competitive and relevant in the 21st century.”

Among respondents, 20.7 percent believe that HBCUs should tweak the emphasis on serving primarily Black students, 13.8 percent believe that the schools should tighten admissions standards to admit fewer students with what may be considered lower academic potential and 29.3 percent believe that “specializing” in a specific discipline, rather than being so broadly liberal arts focused, could help boost HBCUs in the current landscape.

Jackson-Hammond says she believes that a combination of these things is important. She says that the schools “have a responsibility to preserve [their] historical context of perseverance, excellence in providing quality academic, collegiate experiences and being completely unapologetic for (their) past, current existence or (their) future.”

“Institutions whose mission is to serve the politically, socially (and) economic underserved do not need to apologize for that mission,” she says. “Out of those institutions have come more minority physicians, teachers, engineers, attorneys, entrepreneurs, political and civic leaders, and community change agents.”

At the same time, Jackson-Hammond acknowledges that “HBCUs historically were steeped in liberal arts and, within the last 20 years, the shift has been toward increasing academic programs in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and agriculture, which are primarily driven by (the United States’) need to be more competitive in the world market.”

The challenge for these institutions, Jackson-Hammond says, “is the perception of being myopic in (their) mission and vision.”

Most people fail to recognize that “HBCUs were never exclusive to one race, culture or ethnic group, but opened to the underserved,” continues Jackson-Hammond. This included anyone who sought “to enrich their lives through academic experiences, and who had the desire to increase the economic, social and moral fabric of their families.”

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The student who chose an HBCU over Harvard – By Financial Juneteenth



This is a great story about a young man who chose an HBCU over Harvard.  Instead of the 16-year old genius Ralph Jones taking Harvard up on their offer, he chose Florida A&M University.

The story received national attention, but we have to ask ourselves:  Are we naive to automatically assume that Ivy League Universities are better for black students than the leading HBCUs?  Is a black woman out of Spelman any worse off than she would have been had she attended a predominantly white university?  Strong HBCUs do an amazing job of giving students confidence, a great college experience and a strong racial identity.  At the same time, many students attending predominantly white universities leave the campuses feeling frustrated, disconnected and forced to assimilate.

The Financial Juneteenth angle of this story is that it might be time to let go of the idea that white universities are better for black children than HBCUs.  This mindset of one that is reflective of white supremacy and always reminds us that in order to get a high quality product, we must put our lives and futures under the domain of our historical oppressors.  This is almost NEVER a good personal investment.

Read the story below:

When a boy enters first grade at the age of 4 and high school at the age of 12, it’s a foregone conclusion that the child will end up at a Harvard or a Stanford or a Cornell. Right? Not if the boy is Ralph Jones Jr., a 16-year-old freshman at Florida A&M University who has received national attention in recent days for passing up opportunities at the 45 other schools that accepted him — including the prestigious institutions listed above — to attend the Tallahassee, Fla., HBCU.

Jones said that for him it wasn’t about whether or not a school was an Ivy League — he thought about location, scholarship offers, campus atmosphere and the institution’s engineering program in making his decision. “Entering college at the age of 16,” Jones told The Root, “I think that my motives behind choosing were a little bit different than other people’s. One, I looked at distance from home. Florida A&M is about 300 miles away from my hometown of Atlanta, so that was something that was really important to me, whereas if I had gone somewhere that was considered an Ivy, that would have been a good 2,000.”

The proximity is important because he is so much younger than the average freshman, he said. His parents have already had to drive down to his school twice from Atlanta to sign forms for him because of his age. He also said it’s long been one of his goals to go to college for free. Many of his top choices were either too far away or did not offer him a full ride. Harvard and Stanford, for example, offered him some money but not a full scholarship. Cornell and Kettering offered full scholarships but were too far away for his liking. Georgia Tech, his No. 1 choice, did not offer a full scholarship.

READ MORE via Controversy Over 16-Year-Old FAMU Student Ralph Jones Who Chose an HBCU Over Harvard – The Root.

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