“Reconsidering” Historically Black Colleges

James Nabrit, Charles Drew, Sterling Brown, E. Franklin Frazier, Rayford Logan, and Alain Locke

In June of 2010, North Carolina Central University, a historically black college (from here will be referenced as HBCU), in honor of the school’s centennial celebration held a symposium on the state of HBCUs.  The symposium brought together some of the brightest and most active advocates and scholars of hbcus, including, Dr. Mary Beth Gasman Associate Professor at UPenn, and secretary of education, Arne Duncan, in order to discuss relevant research geared towards solving major concerns surrounding the status of black colleges.

The main questions on the table asked, are hbcus still relevant today?  What directions are the schools headed in?  And what could be done to increase funding, graduation rates, and overall efficiency in the new era of black colleges.  As pressing as these issues are, they have been on the table for quite some time.  Many have placed blame for disparities in graduation and retention rates on faulty administration, low admission standards due to a heightened need for funding, while others see a flaw in state allocation procedures, and a host of other reasons.  However, little attention has been given to the impact desegregation has had on the role of black colleges after Brown v. Board.

It is important to consider the influence, power, and efficiency black colleges held before 1954.  Many forget that it was schools like Howard, Tuskegee, and North Carolina Central that served as hotbeds of intellectual and professional development for African Americans.  Imagine walking the campus of Howard University and being able to talk with Carter G. Woodson, walk down the hall and take a philosophy course with Alain Locke, learn about college environments with E. Franklin Frazier, and later take law classes with Thurgood Marshall under the tutelage of Charles Houston. Even at NCCU, students had the opportunity to be surrounded by great minds like Helen G. Edmonds, Earl Thorpe, and others who groomed another generation of prominent scholars like, Carlton Wilson, Freddie Parker, Lydia Lindsey, Sylvia Jacobs, and Percy Murray, who continue to pass on the tradition of developing the  best and brightest minds, as many NCCU graduates are currently enrolled in PhD programs across the nation.

So what happened?  At what point did graduation and retention rates begin to drop?  When did attending hbcus become “just another option?”  Rather than asking “Are HBCU’s still relevant,” we need to be asking “Since when did they stop being relevant?”  In 1975, a article was published by Marion D. Thorpe entitled, “The Future of Black Colleges and Universities in the Desegregation and Integration Process.”  In the article she predicts some possible effects desegregation could have on black colleges and students.  It is interesting to reflect back and consider Thorpe’s points.

Here is Thorpe’s article below Check it out!

future of black colleges

*** Brian McClure is the author of this post.***

 

 

 

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37 thoughts on ““Reconsidering” Historically Black Colleges

    • Thanks for the comment NubianEmpress, we are working on those post as we speak. More importantly we want to bring research, data and perspectives to the blog to address the major issues HBCUs face. Please stay posted and keep blogging!

  1. Interesting post, I love the historical perspective. I can’t imagine walking into MLK building on Hampton’s campus and running into Booker T. Washington, that would be amazing. Nowadays, some kids only associate HBCU’s with being insufficient or think that it gives a false perception of reality. This blog hopefully can become widespread enough to address these issues. Keep up the excellent work Brian and Tracae!

  2. Great article you guys. As a graduate of an hbcu, I too have been concerned about the future of our schools. I encourage my family members to attend our schools in hopes of building a legacy, but of course the few members of my family pursuing college degrees barely puts a dent in the lack of enrollment and funding received at hbcus. So, no luck there. However, with that being said I agree that desegregation hurt us badly. Initially the goal was not to desegregate and to demand equal funding, and integrating white schools was merely a threat. However, the Warren Court believed it to be the most fair and appropriate answer to the problem of separate but unequal. However, it wasn’t just hbcus that were hurt by integration, black businesses and led to the rise of black ghettos. Our best and brightest moved to the suburbs at the first opportunity given and neglected the black communities that once were the only areas they could call home. Its just sad and unfortunate. I don’t know what lies ahead for the future of our institutions, but will continue to support them financially and send my kids there and encourage my family to go as well.

    • I disagree. Arguing that desegregation “hurt us” is faulty, particularly because black people aren’t monoliths. Rather, it gave those with the means (middle class) the ability to separate, which to be honest is what happens with other racial groups (you don’t see rich whites living in trailer parks).

      Rather, HBCUs and their alumni (myself included, Hampton what what!) need to really be aggressive about future growth, and that means shaking a lot of stuff up. Operations at HBCUs can’t be business as usual (i.e. poor housing, poor financial aid, poor faculty), because larger and richer PWIs are swiping a lot of the best and brightest talent.

    • And also, development (fundraising, etc) is a really big driver for schools. Idk what HBCUs are doing, but it seems (from my limited perspective) that they really aren’t tapping into their fundraising potential, and that has to do with a lot of things that are interconnected: student retention, student experience can dictate whether they decide to give back, reaching newer graduates via new channels, etc. I think alot of HBCU administration is really old fashioned and are probably too afraid to experiment with new ways of soliciting donations or even educating folks.

      *drops mic*

  3. Brian. Brother this is great, great post. As stated in your post, I feel as though young blacks view attending an HBCU as just “another option.” Do to lack of funding, administrative support, and limited “glitz and glamour,” young african americans are ignoring the history and tradition of HBCU’s, and striving much harder to attend PWI’s. I strongly feel HBCU’s are very much still relevant, but are in dyer need of financial support.

      • Well my choice to attend an HBCU was an easy one. After doing research, the history behind HBCU’s interest me. So, I knew attending an HBCU was only right.

        Bethune-Cookman was actually the first HBCU I looked into and applied to. However, after furthering my research and coming across The Real HU, I knew A Hamptonian Man is what I wanted to be. (and the ratio of women to men played a factor as well… LOL)

  4. My brother and my sister, you make me proud. As a product of an HBCU I still see the necessity, because honestly I didn’t have the appreciation for my people, my history, or my culture until I went to an HBCU. How can we appreciate where we are going until we first embrace where we have been. Our HBCUs offer us something great that many of us don’t even pause to appreciate. I didn’t go to NCCU because it was a party school, or because it was just another option. And I appreciate the shout out to the ABSOLUTELY DYNAMIC History Dept. at NCCU, because those professors still embrace, maintain, and live out the mission of what an HBCU is suppose to be. If we don’t pause and take notice, we’ll be missing out on a very significant part of our past, present, and our future. The only way our HBCUs are relevant is if we make them so, but if we continue to turn our backs, we’ll be walking away from who we are and what we can become. I am a prouder more enlightened individual for the simple fact that I went to NCCU and was educated under the tutelage of professors like Dr. Wilson, Dr. Parker, Dr. Lindsey, Dr. Harper, Dr. Gershenhorn, Dr. Jacobs, Dr. Murray, etc. Furthermore, I am the teacher I am today because of it. Catch any of my students on the street and they will spit some history like you wouldn’t believe! Anyway, I digress! I thank you for sharing this McClures. Keep us the good work, and keep shouting until the world stops and listens!

    Love you both!

    • Thanks for your post Kirtisha. I love that you indicated the relevancy of HBCUs matter on what we make of it. If HBCUs are our schools then we should determine whether we will continue to attend fund and support our HBCUs. Continue fighting and we’ll be right there with you.

  5. I have a differnt view about HBCU’s…While I share and appreciate Kirtisha’s views on the aspect that HBCUs allow Blacks to learn, and embrace their culture and their history, I have a somewhat tainted view. And is is from an “outside” perspective of someone not born in the U.S. So forgive me in advance as I step on some toes…

    I think that HBCU’s played a greater role in the past than in the present. For reasons surrounding history and the struggle in equality among the African people, HBCUs were designed to provide African-American’s with the opportunity to advance in so many aspects, starting with a wholesome education. But as society changed, and the struggles changed, the HBCUs may not have changed with the times. What I have personally experienced with BENEDICT COLLEGE, is a school that “dummied down” its work to accomodate the “slow learners.” Instead of challenging students to asipre and be better than the best, they lowered their standards, and allowed students who should have failed, to pass. The teachers were GREAT. The administration however what a shame and disgrace to the Black race. As a result, I WILL NEVER send my child to an HBCU. Sadly, that experience has tainted my view. I appreciate though the education that I received from my social work department…as that has really shaped ALOT of my views today…As I said, the teachers were great…And very qualified…But when you have an adminstration who is willing to “settle” and willing to have a B class mentatlity instead on an A class, I cannot support that. When you have administrations full of corrpution, and robbing students blinding – stealing monies and allowing the schools to loose accreditation – I CANNOT AND WILL NOT SUPPORT THAT.

    There are so many people who are trying to do right – like many professors, teachers, assistants, and even students…who want to continue the legacy of premier education for African-Americans…I will not deny that…But WE all must admit and acknowlege that not everyone who holds a position in an HBCU is there because they care about the African people. Because if they did, they would not create policies, or NOT create policies to the demise of the school and the students at large.

    So what really is the purpose in this modern day?

    • Wow…This is ALOT but it needs to be heard.
      NO institution of learning should ever set low standards or belittle their students’ desire of an education. My response to your unfortunate experience at an HBCU is ACCOUNTABILITY! ACCOUNTABILITY! ACCOUNTABILITY!
      There is no reason for students, parents, faculty or staff to have to follow policies that are unjust towards a student’s education. We are talking about someone’s EDUCATION! The thing that shapes students their career goals, desire to improve the WORLD and views derived from a pool of dialogue and resources.
      Just like it’s unjust for students, parents and teachers of low-performing public schools to accept the “norm” at their institution of learning…it is just as UNJUST for HBCUs to lower the bar and pass students on.
      This is the part that I would LOVE to take on to CORRECT, SUSTAIN and MAINTAIN an institution of Higher Education that promotes EXCELLENCE to all students with the Administration of the Institution as its backbone! It’s unacceptable to accept anything that you would not want for yourself or children.

      • Well said Tracae! You are so right…While I was there, I along with another social work student initiated a protest to bring attention to what was going – students living in dorms with mold, students’ refund checks being held hostage for NO reason, teachers being fired for not upholding a policy called “success equals effort” SEE, that required them to pass a student even if they failed every class…simply because attendance counted towards their grade…And we not talking about 10% or 20%…The school not using grant monies to purchase lab equipment…the fact that professors could had to teach labs in theory because there was not materials in the labs…ETC. ETC.

        But at the end of the day, it was the Board of Trustees – Swinton’s friends, who had the “final” say. And nothing was done, and he remained president. Teachers felt oppressed…Can you imagine that!? Well, I am sure you can being a teacher miss yourself. We need people like you to be the Presidents…

        But again I ask, to what end? For what purpose? Are we trying to hold on to something that is outdated? Are we loosing the value of diversity by trying to maintain an HBCU? It’s like the Black church to me…Back in the day Blacks were not welcomed to even worship with Whites, so they worshiped by themselves, they supported each other, they even with limited funding pushed education and educated their own…But now we live in a society where we have opportunities to progress…And we are not prevented from succeeding due to not being allowed entrance through the school gates…Why then are we trying to segregate ourselves? Why are we trying to preserve even the Black church? Why are we not trying to change with the times, and diversify ourselves and embrace all aspects of the American culture – red, and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight…If our policies were guided by that, where would we be?

  6. Thank you for the excellent post. I guess my fundamental question (never having experienced an HBCU) is what do they offer that other schools do not? If the answer is a long standing tradition or the opportunity to be with African Americans, I wonder if that resonates with today’s color blind generation. Do these selling points overcome the poor administration, lack of funding, etc.. for incoming students? If so, maybe better marketing is needed. However, if this is not the case HBCU’s must find a better way to attract students, perhaps an increased use of technology to make classes more accessible to non traditional students or more graduate programs? I would love to hear everyone’s ideas!

    • Thanks for your comments Michael! I think you raise a ton of important questions and problems faced by black colleges and potential students as well. To begin, you ask “what do they offer that other schools do not.” And your answer was right on, it has to be more, especially now, than “reputation” or “tradition.” That is not going to carry hbcus into the next era. You will find, that many black schools typically have one or two main flagship programs in which they devote most of their attention and resources, for example, Florida A&M’s school of business offers a opportunities that rivals any other school of business in the nation. Most graduates go on to work in fortune 400 or 500 companies and do well for themselves. Hampton has just opened a proton therapy research institute, and a “skin of color research center” Hampton is the one of several schools in the nation to boast such programs. The list can continue on, but I think the point is that there has to be something that a particular school can market to potential students that no other school or program can rival. Additionally, whatever is being offered has to be more than the opportunity to relive tradition, and or be around other blacks (which still has tremendous value). And they definitely will not and never will outweigh the setbacks created by administration, funding, etc… However, if schools focused on developmental programs, marketing campaigns, and ways to reach a more diverse population, the negative trends will begin to be reversed. One of the things I will be discussing of course, eventually will be how hbcus should implement technology, online courses, and diversify their student bodies. But I think your exactly right… black schools have to do alot more than sit on their reputations!!

  7. My experience in professional school has made me reevaluate the relevance of HBCUs much the same way you and Tracae have done here. I do not believe that Hampton adequately prepares its students for higher education or for the multicultural working world. Without establishing and filling a specific niche, HBCUs, while providing a “nurturing” environment, perpetuate the detrimental trend of self segregation in contrast to the spirit of the Brown v. Board decision, while offering their students a substandard level of education.

    The common adage that HBCUs prepare you for succeeding in difficult situations may be true, but it alone is not enough for us to continue to excuse their academic shortfalls. Neither the pre-med or pre-law programs at my undergraduate institution are staffed by faculty members with degrees in those fields. Faculty pay is among the lowest in the area and the level of instruction is a direct reflection of that. HBCUs allow their students to self segregate themselves and mature in an unreal environment that is not indicative of the real world. While these schools do have a role in the 21st century, it is one that needs to be clearly defined.

    My solution? Branding. If you want to be an intellectual hotbed of new ideas and brand yourself the “Black Harvard”; hire the best teachers, revamp pre-professional / graduate school programs, admit the best students, truly push those students academically, and steer them towards higher education. If you want to fill the role of a trade school; offer students hands-on learning experiences, curtail ineffective programs, cut back on merit based scholarships and reinvest that money into enhancing the existing programs. By failing to prescribe to either a DuBois-ian “talented tenth”, or a Washingtonian “trade school” mentality, our schools are left in an academic purgatory that neither philosopher would be proud of. We seem to be rejecting the reasoning of Brown v. Board and attempting to show that separate can, somehow, be equal. That was not true in 1954, and is not true today.

    • “By failing to prescribe to either a DuBois-ian “talented tenth”, or a Washingtonian “trade school” mentality, our schools are left in an academic purgatory that neither philosopher would be proud of”.

      This is the perfect explanation to the current “state of hbcu’s”. A somewhat purgatory mentality that indeed has most schools currently stuck! Our schools are in a bind that finds most administrations lowering standards in order to increase enrollment. Schools that once required a 3.0 gpa are now settling for students with a 2.0 gpa, schools that once required top percentile on standardized scores are settling for those students that simply have just taken the test. The bottom line here is that schools are settling for mediocre students, as well as sub par professors, and lackluster administrators. However, this is not only indicative to our schools but colleges as a whole. Currently our schools are trying to be “equal” to everyone else… When do we go back to empowering our students, when do we go back to our schools producing leaders in the African-American community, the question is when do we not settle on being equal, but yet when do we surpass the “bare minimum” and ascertain the proud tradition of seeking greatness?

    • Jon, somebody must have trained you pretty well, where did you do undergrad again? But seriously, I think you definitely raise some valid points and concerns. The lack of proper training amongst faculty is not just relegated to pre-med or pre-law, if you look across the board, you will find many professors who are only part-time and do not possess Doctoral degrees (not that a doctoral degree is the ONLY determinant of a quality teacher). However, I need you to clarify your assertion of “self segregation.” I’m sure you know that on the one hand, hbcus provide opportunites for students who otherwise would a. never get into a majority school, and b. once they get in a majority school, become “lost” in a sea of thousands of students, with auditorium classrooms, and become only a name on a roll. I will say, that larger social and economic flaws in the capitalistic society will live in have still weighed down on African Americans and other minorities the most. With that being said, minorities STILL receive a substandard education, have little to no resources, and are at a greater disadvantage of even attending college, yet alone one where they can actually thrive. I’m sure you know, even though men like Charles Houston and other African American lawyers of the NAACP legal defense fund graduated from schools like Harvard, they still could ONLY teach at Howard. Additionally, once the passed Brown v. Board, they continued to fight for a leveled playing field within academia. With that being said, since the “decision” black schools have not done enough to raise their standards or marketing plans and have suffered the consequences. Your comments on right on point, seperate can not be equal, however, by choosing a Washingtonian approach, it is still possible to build educational programs, acquire funding, develop students, and compete from within ones own community and do it successfully. However, by remaining idley by, we lose the race, and what is supposed to be self lifting becomes self defeating.

      Can you give me your interpretation of the Brown v. Board “Spirit?” and what do you think men like Houston, William Hastie, Thurgood Marshall etc… would have to say about the state of black colleges today! Also would you send your child to an hbcu? why or why not?

    • My reference of “self segregation” inherently calls into question your stated goals for HBCUs (a. admitting students who would not have gotten into majority institutions and, b. providing a more personal experience). I do not believe that Hampton explicitly subscribes to the first goal. Most students do not have Hampton, a $25,000+ private school, as their only option. Hampton’s mission statement specifically references their rigorous curriculum, excellent teaching, and focus on research; all of which I found lacking. I agree that the school provides a more personal experience, but sacrificing academic quality for a more intimate environment is a trade I’m not sure many would make if it were worded that way upfront.

      Assuming that Hampton students have a choice, their decision to attend must have some basis; one which I highly doubt is either academic or financial. Outside of a desire for smaller class sizes or other non-HBCU specific qualities, the main reason people choose HBCUs is social, ergo self segregation. Many students affirmatively choose to attend schools with people who look like them, the same way we choose to live in neighborhoods with other African Americans. My problem with this self segregation is two-fold: 1) It’s not indicative of the composition of the real world, and 2) It doesn’t create a superior learning experienced compared to PWIs.

      Take for instance public schools in our great state of Maryland. African Americans make up 40% of Baltimore County and 72% of Prince George’s County. Black students are proficient in both reading and math at the elementary and high school level in Balto Co. In PG County, black students are only proficient at the high school math level, but fall behind in reading and math on both elementary and middle school levels along with reading on the high school level (MdReportCard.org). This directly contrasts with the greater financial resources of PG County.

      My interpretation of Brown v. Board of Ed is that due to social, economic, and political constraints placed on African Americans in our society, separate segregated schools are inherently unequal. Fast forward to 2011 and many of those economic, political, and some of the social constraints still exist (i.e. gerrymandering, funding structures for public schools, racial steering in the housing market). In my opinion, HBCUs, Hampton especially, advertise an equal product when compared to similarly priced PWIs, but fail to deliver. I would neither persuade or dissuade my children from attending an HBCU. My main goal is that they make an informed decision. You’re better at the whole historical perspective thing that me, but I worry that those who came before us would be disappointed in the seemingly stagnant state of our black schools and even more upset by their academic shortcomings.

    • When people feel deficient in themselves, they tend to look outward to assign the blame to the most vulnerable object, which appears to be Hampton/HBCUs in this case. I find it disheartening when people take an unwarranted, and more importantly unsubstantiated, approach to blame their undergraduate institution for their deficiencies when they have no one to blame but themselves.

      Hampton University is a prestigious and well-respected institution that provides a rich academic experience and opportunity for intellectual growth. When I was at Hampton, I grew a tremendous amount intellectually. I participated in a plethora of academic seminars, made appointments with my professors to discuss academic and industry topics outside the context of class, and traveled to conferences throughout the nation–where I had countless stimulating conversations with many about things going on in my field. Essentially, I took advantage of every didactic opportunity I came across. Currently, I’m in a top 5 graduate program and I have no complaints whatsoever about my preparation. In fact, when a professor in my department found out that I went to Hampton, he told me that the first Black medical school students accepted at my school (in the 1960s) were also from Hampton and that he was very impressed. He also stated that he is happy to see more Hamptonians come through and hopes to see more in the future.

      Simply put, the problem is not with HBCUs, it’s with African Americans and the African-American community. Too often, African-Americans feel this post-oppression sense of entitlement that lends them to take a very complacent and non-proactive approach to their education, only doing enough to “skate” by. Generally speaking, the people that whine and deplore their HBCU institution, for it’s “inadequacy,” also took this complacent and non-proactive approach towards their education.

      I’ll use myself as an example. When I was at Hampton, I was very proactive about my learning, and because of this approach, I was able to gain admission to a top ivy league for graduate school. I’m in the top quarter of my class and among my classmates are many Duke, Columbia, Princeton and Cornell graduates, just to name a few of the popular schools in my program. Now according to you, my Hampton preparation should not have been comparable to theirs? But guess what? It was, and I hit the ground running when I got here. Not to mention I got an academic fellowship to attend MIT next year. Where did this start? At home, with my parents stressing the importance of academics from the very moment I was born (literally).

      Not enough African-American families are stressing the importance of education in their households. My professor pulled me aside the other day and asked me if I was Caribbean. I said yes, I’m half British Caribbean, why? He said that if he took away the Blacks in my graduate school that had at least one immigrant parent, then the Black student population would decrease by at least 80%. He also said that he assumes any Black in these caliber programs come from direct African or Caribbean lineage. What does that say to you? Just corroborates my point that not enough Blacks (and especially pure African-Americans) are taking an active approach to their education to achieve a better quality of life. As a community, that is something we must change.

      Now before you censure Hampton about its alleged “inadequacies,” I would actually take the time to self reflect and ask yourself if you truly took the steps to gain as much as you could during your time there. My guess is probably not, and I would guess that for many students. As intractable as it sounds, the true solution is to really re-shape the Black community, and modify our approach to education.

      (And to your point about the inadequacy of the pre-med program…..the undergraduate school of my current institution actually has one of the MOST respected pre-med programs in the United States, and none of their pre-med advisors have MDs. So there’s another excuse that goes out the window with your attempt to substantiate your claim of Hampton’s inadequacies.)

      Oh and to your point on relevance, not only does the culture instill in you a sense of pride and confidence you need to navigate this world, but HBCUs also produce a significant amount, if not the majority, of Black professionals. In the United States, HBCUs only make up 3% of all colleges and universities yet…
      – Nine of out ten African American PhDs are HBCU graduates
      – More than 70% of African American dentists and physicians are HBCU graduates
      – More than 50% of African American public school teachers are HBCU graduates
      – Nearly half of the African Americans with science degrees are HBCU graduates
      …….so what’s the relevance? I think the statistics speak for themselves.

      So why not ask what you can do to change the approach to education Black community instead of censuring the very institutions that instill in us the values, skills and confidence that we need, AS BLACKS, to excel in this world? Just a thought…

      Bottom line: those who feel underprepared from their HU experience have no one to blame but themselves….

      • 1) I take offense to your antagonistic tone.
        2) I’m studying law at the University of Chicago, also a top 5 school.
        3) I studied mathematics at Hampton.
        4) I was a part of every extracurricular activity under the sun while at Hampton and can speak about the university on every level. From Student Leadership Program, to an intern to Dr. Harvey, to an editor of the newspaper, to the vice president and president of my fraternity. I joined Phi Alpha Delta and 3 honor societies.

        I didn’t feel the need to boast and brag about my undergraduate or post graduate achievements in order to make my points and I bring it now only grudgingly. Most of my classmates too went to ivy league schools. Out of my class, there are 20 black people, 3 went to HBCUs and the other 2 are at least 30 years old.

        Just because you did it, or just because I did it, doesn’t mean that our situations are the norm. That line of thinking is repugnant. For every person who makes it into these top programs, plenty fall by the wayside for a plethora of reasons. It appears as though we both took our educations into our own hands, but if you went to the same Hampton I did, you know you are the exception and not the rule.

  8. First: What distinguished the HBCU was this ideal of a family atmosphere. I am blessed to be in a DYNAMIC department where the faculty is investing in your academic growth as well as personal growth. Across the board, it is not the case. For some departments are not as family oriented and some do not care to build relationships with their students. This needs to change.

    Two: Raising the admissions standards should not be the solution. For I was one of the students who by the high admissions standards of PWIs did not qualify to be a collegian. However, I wanted a chance to prove myself that I deserve to be here. I worked my butt off and with Gods help I graduate Magnum Cum Laude with a 3.4 overall and a 3.7 in my major. So students who are given the chance should not spend so much time with remedial classes but should be enrolled in a mandatory mentoring program with upperclassmen ( at no cost to the University) to show them the ropes, to be a source of inspiration and encouragement, and tutoring if needed until they are able to stand on their own too. Once again reiterating the family atmosphere. Breaking the cycle of individualism which is foreign to African American culture ( that is before integration).

    Third, We need to GIVE BACK! The truth is we don’t. We don’t start scholarships or even assist with funding conferences or anything concerning our department. Most PWI have large endowments because the majority has learned how to give back. To join alumni associations and to become active participants in it. If each alum pledged to give 50 a month for one year alone, just 8,000 alums could fund the things we need to become more competitive. We could expand departments, provide adequate housing so that ALL students can have the option to stay on campus if they so choose instead of being forced off and having to feign for themselves.

    Four- We need to raise the student morale. We need to stop thinking and teaching others that our schools are sub-standard because they are HBCUs. Ive seen NCCU students go on to become successful. As a family filled with EAGLES have occupations such as being a Surgeon, entrepreneurs, computer engineer, Clinical counselors to name a few and might I add very successful on the economic perspective. Ive know those who have graduated with me to enroll in graduate Ivy League schools across the US and are doing quite well in their studies. I am tired of some students talking bad about their HBCUs but pump up other PWI’s when they do not know some of the experiences minorities often face that PWIs will never face up to.
    If I may be frank most PWIs only attract and desire minorities because of appearances and this notion of “diversity” ( if you think 10% or 15% of a minority population is diversity) equates to more money and more funding to the institution. Trust if HBCUs sported as much Nelia for their own schools instead of rocking Duke, UNC shirts ( no UNC/Duke student wouldnt be caught alive wearing a Shaw, NCCU nelia, so why are we??) Most of PWI schools seem so attractive is because of the HYPE. But HBCUs has the personal touch that PWIs cant duplicate. This notion of family and this notion of instilling racial obligation and self-affirmation that most of us Black students were deprived of.

    The bottom line is we need to love our schools and see the value in our experiences at our HBCUs and pass this rich legacy to our next generation. I want my child to at least attend an HBCU on the undergraduate level because it gives Black students that firm foundation needed to build for the rest of their lives. We have an unique experience that Black students at PWI wish they had. Integration took our schools, made most our historic neighborhoods, freeways and interstates, are we now going to let them have our Higher Education too? Draw the line people, wake up!

    • Monet, I agree that the family atmosphere is crucial, especially for those of us who would otherwise be drowned out in larger institutions, however, I am curious at what point the family atmosphere should take a backseat to educational resources? Does one outweigh the other? What about competition? By being “guided” through a program, do you think that puts us at somewhat of a disadvantage later down the road?

      I definitely agree that schools should allocate special funding for transition programs for incoming freshman, however, that would be extra money, that administration would find excuses to try not to spend. I think that responsibility could be picked up by campus organizations, student leaders, fraternities, etc… you raise a good point about admission standards, hopefully we will cover that more in detail in later blogs, but I will say here, all hbcus are not monolithic, with that being said, some will have more laxed standards than others, however, there has to be a cut off, when you admit a certain type of student, it has a direct correlation with retention rates, graduation rates, accolades, etc… which are important especially when considering funding.

      How do you raise student morale? More importantly how do you change outside perceptions of us? where does it start, who does it start with? You bring up a good point about students wearing PWI nalia, its kinda funny if you really think about it! imagine a student from Duke wearing a NCCU shirt, it will never happen! I will ask you, how much of that can be put on athletic programs? yet another venue where PWI’s bring in millions of dollars for there schools. You talked about this cycle of individualism that needs to be broken, one of the questions I have been asking myself is whether I will come back and teach at an hbcu, of course the answer for me was obvious, then I started to see how much faculty at hbcus made considerably less than what is made at PWI’s. Also, considering teaching loads, ability to research, all the above, then I asked myself, what is important money or the chance to go back, struggle and try to change the system… to be continued

  9. When are we going to talk about the financial costs associated with attending an HBCU? Many are private (like Hampton) and have hefty price tags that 1st or even 2nd generation college students would have trouble paying back once they are out of school. Then ago, things like scholarships and grants are tied to alumni giving, which is directly impacted by current students’ propensity to give back once they graduate.

    • “NubianEmpress” LOL, financial cost, philanthropy, fundrasising, REFUND CHECKS all will be discussed! This is just the first of MANY discussions so stay posted, and bring your ideas!

  10. Jonathan raises a valid point that has inspired spirited discussion, must be considered very seriously. I too am a product of an HBCU, and have benefited from the “nurturing” environment, while living in the false reality of the cultural environment at my alma mater. I now work as history professor at another HBCU, and observe many of the same “self-segregating” factors, on an even smaller scale – which, I might add, make the Jonathan’s emphasis on “Branding” even more important.

    The unfortunate disposition of many of today’s HBCU’s is, in fact, obscure missions. Where Jonathan suggests that these schools rectify said problem through Branding, I think that it is very important that the reach of the HBCU be extended more carefully into the environments of secondary schooling. Specifically, while some HBCUs have begun to target the best intellectuals that secondary schools produce and others seek to fill the gaps, I fear that the problems that MOST HBCUs face stem from a growth in overall apathetic student bodies. This is not to say that a majority of students found on the campuses of HBCUs are inferior or unfocused, but I do think that many more students are admitted to HBCUs without any direction, and are expected to find themselves while enrolled. This creates a perpetual cycle of students who often find themselves behind the eight ball when it comes time to graduate, as precious time is spent in the first two years of college attempting to decide a major or a life plan.

    As NCCU and many other HBCUs have already begun (as well as PWIs for that matter), inroads into the future student bodies of HBCUs must be cultivated so that the heritage and prestige, as well of the position, of the HBCU in the future can be protected. (But who knows how much of what I just wrote is already common knowledge! lol)

    • The “overall apathetic student body” that you speak of is a major issue for education in general and its consequences are exhibited across the board. I’ve experienced it in K12 (I’m a former high school teacher & coordinator for numerous outreach programs), I’ve experienced it in working with undergraduates at the PWI I currently attend, and various other places. Student work ethic, in my own opinion & experience, has decreased greatly. They lack the drive/grind to actively seek & take full advantage of the possibility that surrounds them. This does not necessarily mean they are incompetent or incapable to succeed. It does however mean that the struggle will become that much more difficult because so much of the benefit of the HBCU (and I would argue higher education in general) comes from having the drive to find your niche on the landscape, it will NOT be handed to you.

      While I agree that HBCUs (and PWIs, HSIs, tribal schools, etc) must be more intentional in aligning purpose, goals, mission & action this should not be viewed as an opportunity for some to bash them as a monolith. Especially in a time where tenure, academic freedom & the purpose of higher education in general are being scrutinized & affected by law makers. Individuals that believe in the purpose of and can attest to the benefit of HBCUs need to band together to make sure they aren’t thrown under the bus.

      Research needs (and some already has) to back up what experience has proven to many: HBCUs produce & inspire some of the brightest talent in higher education.

      Last part of this lenghty post, the self segregation comment posted earlier regarding HBCUs must surely speak to the poster’s own experience & can’t be a sweeping generalization. I say that not to attack, but to highlight that there are many schools with flagship programs that attract students from diverse ethnic backgrounds, form partnerships with local PWIs that frequently bring the two populations together, facilitate outreach programs that span campus & national borders and provide internships/research opportunities/etc. that place their students in a variety of atmospheres. Individuals can self-segregate no matter the context if they choose to ignore the opportunity; you can be a member of a lot of organizations and still fail to capitalize on all that is offered to you. Its not necessarily a reflection of the environment.

      • First thank you so much for sharing your comments with us. It is only through open dialogue like this, that we will be able to begin to find viable solutions to help sustain HBCUs and make college environments better overall.

        You raise some very important points. Out of curiosity, what are some of the outreach programs you helped to coordinate? Were any designed specifically for Black Colleges?

  11. Thanks for sharing this article. It is every bit as timely and thought-provoking now as it was when first printed.

    • wow, thank you for reading the blog! I found your article to be thought provoking and extremely relevant to the current dialogue surrounding our schools. We hope that by using this blog, we can continue to expound upon the groundwork people like you have laid.

      Thank you

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