Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Appreciating and Committing to HBCUs

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Appreciating and Committing to HBCUs

Article excerpt

As we enter the 21st century, it is important to reflect on the status of African Americans in higher education and the critical role that historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) continue to play in preparing the next generation of leaders in America and the global community. It also is essential that we become more serious in our financial commitment to these institutions.

After more than 30 years of focused, intensive efforts to increase diversity in higher education, the lack of overall, significant progress is discouraging. African Americans and people of color are still grossly underrepresented at America's colleges and universities. And while the numbers have increased, they have done so at very modest increments.

Although African Americans represent nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, they constitute only 3.5 percent of all Ph.D.s -- the most advanced scholarly credential awarded in the United States annually.

Although HBCUs make up only 3 percent of all institutions of higher education in the United States, they graduate approximately 33 percent of all African Americans with B.A.s and 43 percent of all African Americans who go on to earn Ph.D.s.

These institutions, for the most part, have accomplished this noteworthy feat with limited resources, scant attention, and little acknowledgment of the breadth of their successes. Though many in our society believe that affirmative action, desegregation and integration have served their purposes well and run their course over the last four decades, educational attainment statistics tell a very different story--and it is a story that must be addressed forthrightly and in the next century.

High school graduation rates for African Americans have reached 86 percent today, yet African American representation in higher education institutions has not substantively increased in the last three decades.

Fortunately, HBCUs have remained true to their mission. It is not a coincidence that Xavier University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Hampton University are among the top 10 institutions sending the most African Americans to medical schools and to graduate study at the doctoral level. It should also be noted that Howard University's 1999 Rhodes Scholar personifies the standards of excellence at HBCUs. …

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