Historically Black Colleges' Special Niche

By Scott Pendleton, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, March 8, 1993 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Historically Black Colleges' Special Niche

Scott Pendleton, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor

MAY 26, 1990: "That's when my honeymoon came to a screeching halt," says Julius Becton.

Just five months earlier the retired Army general had become president of Prairie View A&M University, one of 104 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States.

"We were spending upwards of $3 million over a four- or five-year period from our dormitory account, from our dining account, to prop up football," General Becton recalls. "No sport was carrying its weight."

So the new president canceled all sports except track and cross country, outraging students and alumni. But Becton's message was clear: Education is Prairie View's first priority.

Schools like Prairie View offer an opportunity for higher education to many African-Americans. One in six of the 1.2 million black students who went to college in the US in 1990 attended a predominately black institution. (There are 117 such schools, 104 HBCUs and another 13 founded after 1964).

But HBCUs were responsible for a much higher ratio - one in four - of degrees awarded to African-Americans. Among all US institutions, Prairie View's rank in graduating blacks is third in engineering and computer science, fourth in engineering science and math, and fifth in life sciences.

"We pride ourselves on being able to produce productive students able to turn into productive leaders," Becton says of HBCUs. "We take that role seriously."

Prairie View graduates include Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver, Texas Congressman Craig Washington, and Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller, who was Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's deputy commander in the Persian Gulf. Becton, who once directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is also an alumnus.

Located 45 miles northwest of Houston, Prairie View was established in the state constitution of 1876 as the "Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youth," making it the state's second-oldest institution for higher education.

Today, anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent can enroll, regardless of SAT scores. About 85 percent of Prairie View's 6,000 students are African-American.

Nine out of 10 students receive some financial aid at Prairie View, where tuition, room, and board cost about $5,000 a year. A third of the students on aid come from families that earn less than $8,000 a year.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Historically Black Colleges' Special Niche


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?