Are HBCUs still needed?

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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8 Responses to Are HBCUs still needed?

  1. Pingback: REPOST: National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week: Examining the Modern Relevance of the HBCU | Take As Directed

  2. BikeMonkey says:

    The reason for you to keep posting this is simple. I had only the vaguest idea of what HBCUs even were, nevermind their accomplishments, prior to you taking that job and starting to blog about it. You reach people who otherwise would be similarly ignorant. That should be enough.

  3. David Kroll says:

    Thanks for the vote, BM. Interestingly, I haven’t found any other HBCU science blogging faculty but perhaps my Google-fu isn’t up to snuff.

    Anyway, your comment reminded me of this quote I saw in this week’s issue of The Week – good justification for almost any rehashed blogpost:

    “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

    by André Gide, quoted in The Milwaukee Courier

  4. skipper says:

    That was an awesome reply. Awesome quote!

  5. SaxChick says:

    I think the reason HBCUs are still needed is simply to educate students who need somewhere to study, just like all colleges. I think the main issue for HBCUs to those who question their relevance is simply the label “HBCU.” I feel if several of the other schools held the label “HWCU” they would probably be facing similar judgement. The main difference is one label is something to be proud of (HBCU=educating those who other institutions refused admittance) and the other is one of shame (HWCU= refusing to educate those who you believe to be inferior simply based on the color of their skin). I am currently a senior Mechanical Engineering major at Tuskegee University. This summer I am completing my third Co-op term with Southern Nuclear. While there are several African American engineers in the industry, the majority of them come from HBCUs. Somehow there is a widespread misconception that attending an HBCUs is an academic death sentence. Of the many friends I have who do not attend HBCUs the majority of those who frown upon HBCUs and turn up their noses at the mention of the phrase HBCU tend to be African American students. I do no understand where this thinking that “If the people running it look like me, it must be bad” has come from but it is having a damaging effect on HBCUs.

  6. Joseph Grant III says:

    HBCU’s are needed. As a dentist, I know for a fact that only 5% of dentists are African American and about 70% of them are educated at the only two hbcu dental schools in the country. I also have two undergraduate degrees, one from an hbcu and another from a traditionally majority school or white college. I learned from both institutions, but the undergraduate degree and doctorate from the hbcu holds special value. I think of the opportunity and mentorship I was provided at the hbcu’s I didn’t receive at the majority school. It really made me appreciate the educational opportunity I had.

  7. JW says:

    HBCU Science faculty here. I appreciate this post, and I think it has encouraged me to start blogging as well. Hope this leads to some important discussions beyond the tired “relevance” arguments. Thanks for posting.

  8. Jenita says:

    The whole concept of even trying to demolish HBCUs makes me sick to my stomach. This post alone let’s me know that racism still exist and will not be going nowhere anytime soon. What you “HWCU” fail to realize is that HBCUs are rich in heritage and foundation for many young and older African Americans to attend and we do not take it lightly. I speak for myself as a present HBCU student that my experience is overall excellent and I would not change it for the world. My father is a doctor and obtained his Bachelor’s and Master Degree for Alabama A&M University, where I am now attending and is doing exceedingly well for himself and family. Do not try to deprieve us of what we know and need out of education because at the end of it all African Americans will always come out on top. You people can try with all your might to deprieve us of what we need, but we will not let that phase us. Please keep your ignorant comments to yourselves and go question the Bushes education as to why he allowed this country to be run down in the ground. Go question the House of Represenative and Burrgess…..look; enough lol, I am done!