Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

In Spite of Obstacles, HBCUs Can Thrive

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

In Spite of Obstacles, HBCUs Can Thrive

Article excerpt

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) continue to play a vital role in educating African-American collegians. Since their inception in the 1800s, HBCUs have withstood economic, political and social obstacles, which continue today.

For instance, changes to the federal grant and loan programs have hampered efforts to support students from underserved communities. The shift in policy prevented families from securing loans while lowering retention rates for HBCUs. Fortunately, the changes to the loan program were modified to accommodate poor and working-class families who were disproportionately impacted by the new policies.

In spite of the barriers, HBCUs provide nurturing environments for African-American, first-generation college students with untapped potential. Without HBCUs, thousands of students would face a daunting future with limited economic opportunities.

Obtaining a bachelor's degree can help African-American students from underserved backgrounds overcome intergenerational poverty. However, a report published by Rory O'Sullivan, Konrad Mugglestone and Tom Allison determined "African-American males need some college credit to have a similar probability of employment as a white male school dropout."

The findings highlight how education, class and race intersect in today's society. African-American males continue to encounter societal bias despite progress over the last 50 years. HBCUs prepare African-American men and women to combat negative stereotypes by emphasizing the importance of political activism, communalism and academic excellence.

Throughout the Jim Crow era, HBCU faculty, staff and students fought discriminatory practices, which prohibited African-Americans from voting, peacefully organizing and securing jobs. Fighting for democratic principles was the impetus behind passage of the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.

HBCUs had an integral role in the fight for equal rights. For example, organizations, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), grew in size and stature because of the efforts of students at Shaw University. Moreover, HBCU alumni including Stokely Carmichael (also known as Kwame Ture) bravely fought for immediate changes to economic, political and social systems within the United States.

During slavery, social bonds connected communities despite the difficult circumstances. After the Civil War, HBCUs became sanctuaries for African-Americans in search of opportunities to improve their quality of life. Several HBCUs, including Alcorn State University, were founded because of federal legislation, including the Morrill land grant acts.

Unfortunately, financing institutions dedicated solely to educating African-American students created a funding gap with larger White land-grant institutions. …

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