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HBCU Recovery 101

Updated on December 6, 2014

Identifying the Problem and Implementing a Solution

A college education has been proven to lead to a more profitable and productive lifestyle. College educated individuals reportedly earn more per year than individuals who simply obtain a high school diploma or a General Education Certification. So unsurprisingly, college enrollment is reportedly at an all-time high across America. Predominantly white colleges and universities, and HBCUs have been increasing in enrollment since the early 1930s, but unlike the predominantly white colleges and universities, HBCUs have been suffering a substantial decline in its graduation rates. Even though HBCUs offer low income individuals an opportunity to receive an education, while more prestigious institutions close their doors to blacks who are not athletically inclined, they are failing to graduate students within the usual four year time frame, and even more students fail to graduate at all. Some white campuses actually graduate more African-American students than majority of the nation’s HBCUs. These unfortunate truths, coupled with financial restraints, have some government officials raising questions about the profitability of merging HBCUs with other universities. The only problem with this solution to low graduation rates and financial constraints is that usually, merging consists of combining HBCUs with larger, stronger, historically white institutions, resulting in the loss of the cultural identity of the HBCU, and ultimately enables the continued downfall of the value of an education at an HBCU.

Supporters of merging HBCUs with white campuses, argue that HBCUs are nonessential because of their low graduation rates, and the large amount of money that stands to be gained, or saved by merging. Seemingly, African-Americans have a better chance of graduating from a predominantly white campus than an HBCU. In order to be more competitive, and in order to survive, HBCUs have to bring their graduation numbers in line with its enrollment numbers. But how do HBCUs achieve this seemingly impossible task? What has been causing so many African-Americans to drop out of college to a point that threatens HBCU survival? And even more important, is what can be done about this rising problem?

There are many contributing factors that have led to the dwindling HBCU graduation rates, but none as important as the individual student’s, collective and individual, efforts to succeed. I think that it is possible to gain a good quality education regardless of the institution attended. Students have to be focused, and they have to have the drive to succeed. A person’s family background has a lot to do with that person’s dreams and aspirations in life, and the more supportive a person’s family is, can inspire one to face and conquer many obstacles. Celebrities and the media popularize get rich quick schemes more than hard work and education, and without a firm foundation helping to clear some of the smoke from the mirrors, it is easy for many students to be blinded by fame and fortune. It is ironic to me that in Johannesburg, South Africa, citizens lined up to receive an education when they heard the news of a new university opening in January 2012. 85,000 hopeful citizens came out to apply to the University of Johannesburg, despite the warnings given that there were only 11,000 available spots. When the institution opened the doors, hundreds of hopeful students were trampled by the crowd as everyone rushed into the institution hoping to get an education. In contrast, many African-Americans do not value their own education because it seems that regardless of one’s educational achievements, blacks will always be undervalued in America, he or she still will not be treated equally nor respectfully.

White institutions have numerous counselors and programs available to help their students adjust to college life. Many provide mentors and tutors to help keep their students on the straight and narrow track, especially the promising African-American athlete, who is sometimes passed through middle grades and even college courses solely based on his or her athletic ability. This helping hand of added support is why so many African Americans are neglecting their heritage in an attempt to secure a prosperous financial future for their families. This shift of African-American enrollment from HBCUs to predominantly white institutions is enabling the dismissal of the African-American heritage, and the value of African-Americans, and their education to America, which cannot be taught in one African-American Studies course at a predominantly white higher education institution.

In order to recover the nation’s HBCU’s educational rankings, African-Americans must put faith in these institutions. Families must be supportive of, and involved in their children’s educational planning. Positive mentors and tutors must be provided by HBCUs for students before their education is in jeopardy. Programs have to be instilled that halt the passing of students for reasons other than academic achievement. More importantly, African-Americans have to take their education into their own hands and seek out the opportunities that put them in the position to give back to their communities, financially and educationally.

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    • william landis profile image

      William L 2 years ago

      I wrote a blog on HBCU endowments and ive seen there is definitely a correlation with endowments and school performance and prestige. I would love to hear your opinion on it.

    • LaWandaDenise profile image

      LaWandaDenise 2 years ago

      You also have to consider the fact that society does not value the education of HBCU graduates which limits their abilities to give back as they may like too or would otherwise, because they are unable to secure positions in the workforce which makes 'giving back' to HBCU's unfeasible for graduates, especially while under obligations to pay back student loans which can take up to 5years or more for some graduates. Literal money is not the only way that graduates can give back to HBCU's either. Recruiting students probably generates more money for HBCU's than Alumni donations.

    • william landis profile image

      William L 3 years ago

      What is more important is the financial resources of HBCUs. If you look at the endowments of the top ranked schools you will see that their endowments are equal to all of the HBCUs combined. The truth is HBCU graduates don't give back like they should. You can't expect to draw top students bring in top faculty and staff without a lot of money. Everyone says they are proud HBCU graduates but it is not reflected in their giving.

    • jeolmoz2 profile image

      Julio E Olmo Sr 3 years ago from Florida, USA

      HBCUs are rich in tradition, but the general public is just not aware of their history