Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

HBCU Presidents Stress Need for Greater Financial Help

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

HBCU Presidents Stress Need for Greater Financial Help

Article excerpt

Congressional hearing draws 300 people to Wilberforce University in Ohio

WlLBERFORCE, OHIO

Historically Black colleges and universities need greater federal financial help to make college affordable for students and to install the technology necessary to best prepare those students, four college presidents told congressional leaders last month. While making no specific promises of funding, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Select Education, assured the presidents that strengthening Black colleges is a priority of his panel. He also challenged them to become more involved with urban school districts to help improve the quality of graduates from those high schools.

The two-hour congressional hearing drew nearly 300 people to the Wilberforce University campus to listen to testimony from Wilberforce President John Henderson, Central State University President John Garland and two other presidents of predominantly Black higher-education institutions: Dr. W. Clinton Pettus of Cheyney University of Pennsylvania; and Dr. Marjorie Harris of the Lewis College of Business in Detroit. Hoekstra was joined by subcommittee members Patrick Tiberi, R-Ohio, and Robert Scott, D-Virginia, and by Dave Hobson, R-Ohio, a former member of the board of trustees of both Central State and Wilberforce.

The field hearing -- the second of three the subcommittee has scheduled -- was designed to examine the role HBCUs play, the resources they need and ways the federal government can assist them, Hoekstra said. Garland delivered a stirring testimonial for historically Black universities, evoking his own experience entering Central State in 1968 "as a 24-year-old high school dropout" who had obtained a GED and served in Vietnam. The university nurtured him and built his confidence, and upon graduation, he applied to Ohio State University's law school and went on to get his law degree. The years spent at a historically Black college represent "the only time in the life of an African American where skin color will not be an issue," Garland said.

The CSU president said Congress now recognizes the vital role Black colleges play in higher education -- a departure from the attitudes of a decade or two past, when some federal officials questioned whether such institutions were worth supporting with federal money. Hoekstra and other committee members said federal funding for HBCUs has increased by 36.5 percent between 1995 and 2000, and will jump again in 2001 from $169 million to $185 million. …

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