Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

And Still We Rise: How a Black College Survives the Economic Recession

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

And Still We Rise: How a Black College Survives the Economic Recession

Article excerpt

Since their inception, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have uniquely provided the space for African Americans to explore their racial identity; equipping students with the tools to function in a racist society (Allen et al., 2007; Anderson, 1988; Fleming, 1984; Gasman & Tudico, 2008; Minor, 2004; Nichols, 2004). Given the storm of deficit media surrounding these institutions (Gasman, 2009; Nealy, 2009; Riley, 2011), it is important to discuss the continued significant role Black colleges play in the 21st century. In addition to providing a quality education, HBCUs have historically been considered safe havens for the holistic development of students from social, economic, and political standpoints (Allen et al., 2007).

Today there are approximately 103 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), with the majority being private and the rest operating as public and two-year institutions (Avery, 2009; Brown, 2013; Newkirk, 2012). Additionally, while currently only 14% of Black college students attend HBCUs, "70% of all Black doctors and dentists, 50% of all Black engineers and public school teachers, and 35% of all Black attorneys received their bachelor's degrees at an HBCU" (Avery, 2009, p. 328). Despite these notable statistics, leaders associated with HBCUs have "felt insecure about their future since the 1950s" for a variety of issues; namely low enrollments, low endowments, loss of accreditation, and severe decreases in fiscal resources (p. 328). While a plethora of studies (Allen & Jewell, 2002; Anderson, 1988; Betsey, 2008; Drewry & Doermann, 2001; Fields, 2001; Gary, 2008; Gasman & Anderson-Thompkins, 2003; Gasman & Sedgwick, 2005; Gasman & Tudico, 2008; Harper, Patton, & Wooden, 2009; Jenkins, 1991; Jewell, 2002; Kim & Conrad, 2006; Minor, 2004; Minor, 2008; Patton, 2011 ; Roebuck & Murty, 1993; Wennersten, 1991) have been conducted regarding historically Black colleges and universities and their historical evolution, students' experiences, and academic culture, there is not enough research that addresses the ways in which the difficult financial and accreditation issues are effectively handled by these institutions. The purpose of this study is to address that gap of information by illuminating the ways in which Southern College (pseudonym), a private liberal arts HBCU, successfully addressed financial and accreditation difficulties during the economic recession.


Due to the unique standing of Southern College, an institution that almost closed its doors in 2004 due to dire financial difficulties, it is purposefully selected as an unusual case that will illuminate the strategies, processes, and leadership tactics attributable to the institution's current standing as a distinguished, financially stable HBCU. Southern College was specifically selected for this case study because it met the following criteria:

* the institution must be a historically Black college or university,

* the institution recently (within five years) suffered an extreme financial burden (i.e., budget cuts, declining enrollment),

* the institution maintained the same presidential leadership throughout the financial crisis, and

* the institution is referenced in the literature as one that is effectively handling the aforementioned financial burdens (Gasman, 2009; Masterson, 2010).

While Southern College is not unusual in that it has experienced severe financial burdens within the last five years, it is unique in the way the leadership associated with the institution chose to tackle this problem, which resulted in lower student enrollments and higher quality of education and resources. Other HBCUs, namely Spelman College, Howard University, and Morehouse College, have also taken steps to stay abreast of the financial issues plaguing their institutions, but those steps have centered on increases in enrollment and budget cuts (Gasman, 2009). …

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