This summer I was afforded the opportunity to intern with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHI-HBCU). The WHI-HBCU was established in 1980 under Executive Order 12232 signed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter “…to overcome the effects of discriminatory treatment and to strengthen and expand the capacity of historically black colleges and universities to provide quality education.” Each U.S. President following Carter renewed and strengthened the Executive Order on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by establishing the President’s Board of Advisors and increasing private sector involvement among this group of institutions. In 2010 President Obama signed Executive Order 13532 to highlight Excellence Innovation and Sustainability of HBCUs, using partnerships with federal agencies and departments. It also emphasized the importance of public and private sector partnerships to sustain the important work of HBCUs. Additionally the Executive Order requires submission of annual reports with the purpose of informing the President and Secretary of the WHI-HBCU participation in appropriate federal programs and initiatives. Today the WHI-HBCU is housed within the Department of Education in the Office of the Under Secretary and continues to serve as a liaison between HBCUs, federal agencies, and the private sector.
This summer my primary responsibility entailed completing the WHI-HBCU 2013 Fiscal Report. In order to complete the report, I compiled each federal agency’s fiscal contributions into a master spreadsheet. Each agency’s contribution was organized by HBCU in the following categories: research and development, training, direct institutional subsidies, facilities and equipment, student financial assistance, fellowships, third-party awards, administrative infrastructure, program evaluation, economic development, and other. After organizing this information by agency I thought it beneficial to create a PivotTable for further analyses and graphs by agency, category, and institution.
Throughout my internship there were various federal agency stakeholders who provided insight to complete the WHI-HBCU 2013 fiscal report. It required meeting with senior officials within WHI-HBCU office because they communicate with each federal agency’s representative. Throughout the year each senior official and agency representative discuss contributions (monetary and non-monetary) to HBCUs and its purpose. The primary mechanism for engagement and funding to HBCUs include competitive grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. The report also provides acknowledgement of indirect support that may come from paid internships for HBCU students or provide training for faculty. I communicated with the HBCU senior staff of any problems and they followed-up with the corresponding federal agency representative.
While completing the 2013 Annual Report I overcame unexpected barriers. At the end of my internship only 20 of the 34 federal agencies submitted their fiscal reports. Therefore the final contributions in the 2013 report are inconsistent with the final totals from previous annual reports.
Additionally I worked with the Executive and Associate Director, other staff, and interns on various projects like the WHI-HBCU annual conference. The WHI-HBCU 2014 Conference planning was an ongoing project where input was requested for conference speakers and topics. To assist I researched scholars in the field of higher education with interests on college retention, student financial aid, LGBTQ, and the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Then at our weekly team meetings we discussed the proposed speakers and topics. This experience allowed me the opportunity to use my knowledge of scholars in the field of higher education, federal agency staff and other stakeholders and place them in a practitioner role of relaying their research to HBCU presidents, administrators, and staff.
I also compiled a spreadsheet highlighting the risks and assets of HBCUs to inform the WHI-HBCU of our schools in jeopardy of losing Title IV funding and those making significant gains in other areas. For example the spreadsheet included HBCUs enrollment, percentage of Pell eligible students, accreditation, graduation, retention, and cohort default rates. All of these indicators create an additional lens for the WHI-HBCU to assess our institutions in a federal advocacy role.
Alignment with Career Goals
Prior to beginning this internship, I was unsure of my responsibilities. While compiling the 2013 annual report, I learned a lot about how federal agencies support HBCUs. As a HBCU advocate, my personal goal is to learn as much as possible about HBCUs and their funding. Completing this report illustrates how the federal government supports HBCUs through legislation and partnerships with agencies. It provides me an outlook of support from federal agencies and their role in sustaining this group of institutions.
Similarly this position directly aligns with my former experience as a Research Fellow at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), where I advocated on behalf of private HBCUs. As a result both of these experiences and my research interests, mold my professional identify as a higher education researcher/policy analyst with a primary interest on HBCUs. My experiences provide me tools and resources to work with federal agencies and continue their contributions to HBCUs. This is extremely important because HBCUs receive the majority of their financial contributions from the federal government, with the Department of Education taking the lead. This all strengthens my platform as an advocate on behalf of HBCUs because I will eventually be able to communicate with primary contributors and reinforce these relationship for years to come. Additionally this experience builds my knowledge base and broadens my network of HBCU advocates and individuals from various offices within the Department of Education.
My experience left me with the following thoughts. Although HBCUs account for only 3% of Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) they only receive 3% of all federal contributions. Although issues with the WHI-HBCU 2013 remain to be addressed I believe the report is extremely valuable. It allows the WHI-HBCU staff to frame discussions with agency representatives about their contributions and brainstorm ways to increase funding.
Thank you to the WHI-HBCU staff including Dr. George Cooper, Dr. Ivory Toldson, Ron Blakely, Meldon Hollis, Sedika Franklin, and Elyse Jones for an amazing opportunity.
After final edits and approvals the WHI-HBCU 2013 Fiscal report will be available, but until then take a look at the previous reports at http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/whhbcu/policy/reports-studies/