Are HBCUs still needed?

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There are few questions as beaten to death as to whether historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) are still needed in this so-called post-racial America.

My post is stimulated by this post where my own university chancellor is quoted:

http://thyblackman.com/2011/02/16/the-hbcu-debate-are-black-colleges-universities-still-needed/

and this passage from that post:

HBCUs represent about 3% of colleges in the U.S. but enroll 12% of all Black college students and produce 23% of all Black college graduates. Remarkably, this small group of colleges confers 40% of all STEM degrees and 60% of all engineering degrees earned by Black students. They also educate half of the country’s Black teachers and 40% of all Black health professionals. And they do this with much less funding support than that of traditionally White institutions.

For those of you outside the US – or those within the US who didn’t know – HBCUs were designated by the federal government in 1964 as institutions that traditionally supported the education of African-Americans. Because of the aggressive exclusion of Blacks in American higher ed through the 19th and most of the 20th century, these African-American-serving institutions were traditionally underfunded and are trying to play catch-up with historically-White institutions. Although called HBCUs, these 105 colleges and universities in the US support the education of all traditionally-marginalized groups – not just African-American and Hispanic/Latino(a), but any first-generation and/or low-wealth student who might not have a shot at higher ed in another institution.

Interestingly, few seem to question the continued need for all-female colleges, Roman Catholic universities, or evangelistic colleges. Or why those with a family legacy at one university encourage their offspring to go there as opposed to those colleges with a higher USN&WR ranking.

In fact, this question is almost like those in the blogosphere who ask why bloggers still choose to write under a pseudonym.

I’m a HBCU faculty member who used to also write blogs under a pseudonym. So, I’m very much used to tired discussions that keep rearing their heads. Although I’m a bit cynical about this, revisiting these discussions does serve a purpose in including others in the conversation that may not have participated originally.

So, feel free to use this space in the comments to describe why you feel HBCUs are still necessary in the US.

Update, 17 February 7:42 am – To further seed the conversation, I’ve reposted my much longer HBCU primer and discussion here. The post includes a 2008 unscientific survey of the African-American blogosphere for discussions of today’s relevance of the HBCU.

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