The Production of Knowledge and Human Capital: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities

By Hobson, Lisa D. | Educational Foundations, Summer-Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

The Production of Knowledge and Human Capital: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities


Hobson, Lisa D., Educational Foundations


Cheyney University (Pennsylvania) is listed as the oldest Historically Black University in the United States and was established in 1837 as the African Institute to educate African American students (Thurgood Marshall College Fund, 2012). Today, 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) exist (U. S. Department of the Interior Office of Educational Partnerships). From the inception of these institutions to the present, HBCUs continue producing successful graduates.

In this special issue of the Journal of Educational Foundations, around the theme "The Production of Knowledge and Human Capital: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities," the contributing authors examine the various issues, challenges, dynamics, and foci that HBCUs currently address.

As guest editor, it was my overarching goal to garner attention to the current work of HBCUs to facilitate conversations and discourse about their roles nationally and globally. Beyond HBCUs, all institutions of higher learning must address and transition through several economic, strategic, cultural, and programmatic changes in higher education yet remain viable and sustainable. Due to the vulnerability of some institutions, these areas pose more difficulties for HBCUs. Since HBCUs have higher populations of economically disadvantaged students, lower tuition costs, smaller endowments, and limited fund-raising efforts (in some instances), economic crises and challenges impact HBCUs more adversely (Gassman, 2009).

In this journal issue, we have included qualitative, quantitative, and review of research articles which address how HBCUs produce knowledge to inform, educate, and prepare students and graduates to serve as resources to communities. Human capital, in the context of this issue, solely refers to the power and potential of human beings as investments and resources that can be valued individually, nationally, and globally.

Given the myriad of issues currently faced by or presently promulgated by HBCUs across the country, this issue is timely. Some HBCU challenges over the past two years have included talks of mergers in Mississippi, financial conservatorship issues in Tennessee, furloughs in Louisiana, and reductions in the number of degree offerings in Texas. On the other hand, HBCUs have accomplished major successes. Jackson State University stakeholders welcomed the completion of an $ 18 million dollar retail and upscale real estate complex as well as major improvements to its facilities and named its first woman president, Dr. Carolyn Meyers. Howard University continued with the largest endowment of HBCUs.

Despite both setbacks and noted accomplishments at HBCUs, there is more work to be completed that is critical to the viability and sustainability of these institutions along with the impact on the students they produce. All stakeholders have responsibilities in ensuring the success of HBCUs.

* Students must receive adequate preparation to successfully enter, matriculate, and graduate from these institutions. …

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