Funding Black Education; Conferees Seek Growth in Student Opportunity

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 7, 2009 | Go to article overview

Funding Black Education; Conferees Seek Growth in Student Opportunity


Byline: Bekah Grim, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Obama dedicated National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week from Aug. 30 through Thursday as a time to recommit ourselves to never resting until equality is real, opportunity is universal, and all citizens can realize their dreams.

Yet, according to the National Science Foundation, six of the top 20 predominantly white universities received more federal funds for research than 79 HBCUs combined.

Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, said Our biggest problem is funding. HBCU schools have been forced to do more with less. Every day I have a brilliant student that is contemplating dropping out of school because she can't afford it. We can't keep losing solid students because of affordability.

HBCUs have been a center for the education and empowerment of black students for more than 130 years. According to David C. Coleman, a writer for HBCUconnect.com, these schools were created 26 years before the end of slavery to train free blacks to become teachers. By 1902, more than 80 such schools were established by philanthropists and emancipation advocates. Initially, the schools, such as then-Hampton Institute, now Hampton University in Virginia, also educated American Indians.

Today there are more than 100 HBCUs that award more than 19 percent of bachelor's degrees earned by blacks. In a proclamation last week, President Obama cited these colleges as playing a key role in reaching his national education goals, such as attaining the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

These historic institutions have already played a paramount role in training emerging scholars. According to the magazine Diverse Issues in Higher Education, three-quarters of all black Ph.D.s did their undergraduate studies at HBCUs. There is also an extensive list of notable HBCU graduates, including Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison from Howard University, talk show host Oprah Winfrey from Tennessee State University, and Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes from Lincoln University.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education sponsored the annual HBCU conference in the nation's capital, home to two HBCUs - Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia. …

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