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Enrollments surge at historically black colleges amid rise in racial tensions

By Valerie Strauss September 11

University California Los Angeles students stage a protest rally in a show of solidarity with protesters at the University of Missouri, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 in Los Angeles. Thousands of students across the U.S. took part in demonstrations at university campuses Thursday to show solidarity with protesters at the University of Missouri, and to shine a light on what they say are racial problems at their own schools. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Racial tension rose on many colleges and university campuses last year, with protests erupting on dozens of campuses and a national debate over “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings” and freedom of expression. A recent survey of college and university presidents conducted by Insider Higher Ed and Gallup found that less than 25 percent thought race relations on campuses other than their own were good or excellent during 2015-16 (though 84 percent said race relations on their own campuses were just fine).

Amid this friction, many historically black colleges and universities are suddenly witnessing a surge in enrollment. Why? Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, a private, historically black liberal arts college in New Orleans, writes about this in the following post.

[Where are all the black college faculty?]

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By Walter M. Kimbrough

As we begin a new academic year, many colleges and universities find themselves with heightened sensitivity around issues of race. Led by the unrest last year at the University of Missouri, dozens of campuses from coast to coast saw protests as students of color, particularly black students, reached a collective breaking point. As students saw their peers at Missouri create a national conversation and topple both a system president and campus chancellor, they found the courage to address similar concerns on their respective campuses.

A typical outcome was a list of demands. Several themes emerged from the campuses: changing names of buildings, more black students, faculty and staff, mandatory diversity training, targeted support and counseling for black students, and the creation of safe spaces including in designated residential halls. Campuses have responded in kind with task forces, new initiatives, and the hiring of chief diversity officers.

Recently, the University of Chicago made news by plainly stating to students that in an effort to protect academic freedom, they will not support trigger warnings, canceling speakers that might be controversial, or the creation of academic safe spaces. In contrast, others argued while academic freedom is important, we must not have environments which tolerate hate speech or harassment expressed as free speech.

The past year has been a great reminder for families as they prepare to select a college. Ask yourself what is important to you, and then find an institution that is a great fit for you. If learning from black faculty is important, going to a place where they are less than 5 percent makes little sense. If a curriculum that uses diverse points of view is a factor, attending an institution driven by the Great Books will create disappointment. If having a residential experience with students who look like you is important, attending a school where you see more black students on brochures than on a campus tour is a recipe for problems.

As a graduate of three predominantly white universities I still believe black students can thrive there, but only if they accept them for what they are and not some fantasy. As the president of a black college, I’ve noticed that students and their families are giving historically black colleges and universities, HBCUs, a second look, and many really like what they see.

Simply put, as we see young black people chant “Black Lives Matter” in the streets, their actions clearly indicate that black colleges matter as well.

Many HBCUs this year have seen enrollment jumps in the wake of the Missouri Effect. Freshman enrollment is up 49 percent at Shaw University, 39 percent at South Carolina State, 32 percent at Tuskegee University, 30 percent at Virginia State University, 22 percent at Dillard University, 22 percent at Central State University, 20 percent at Florida Memorial University, and 19 percent at Delaware State University. Dillard, Philander Smith College (overall enrollment up 29 percent) and South Carolina State University all rely on overflow housing to accommodate the influx of students.

Record freshmen classes were welcomed at Claflin University in South Carolina, and notably at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis, a campus just miles from Ferguson and two hours from the epicenter of unrest, the University of Missouri.

The renewed interest in HBCUs should not be seen as a step backwards in race relations. In fact, black colleges provided the educational and spiritual grounding for America’s civil rights heroes. The fact that John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Diane Nash, and Martin Luther King Jr. attended black colleges in no way hampered their ability to work across racial lines. Rather, their HBCUs prepared them for this work.

Predominantly white institutions should continuously work toward inclusive campus environments because it is the right thing to do. This is tough work, and will require genuine leadership from the top (hint- hiring a chief diversity officer is not an answer; the president IS the chief diversity officer).

But students of color must have reasonable expectations. Demanding a school in a rural town of a homogeneous state to have large numbers of black faculty and staff will never happen. Prospective employees look for communities suitable for their needs, which may include schools for their kids that offer ideal communities those places will never be able to provide.

It appears prospective students are doing likewise, and at least for a higher number this year, they’ve found that historically black colleges are the best fit. For black students, HBCUs continue to serve as the original safe spaces.




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It's about time that African American students (and their parents) [and other minority students] get it.



African American students (and their parents) need to use those countless hundred of millions/billions of dollars in student financial aid (and student loans) to support and BUILD-UP and MAKE GREAT HBCUs, and African and Carribean nations should stand in solidarity with African Americans by sending as many of their foreign exchange students to America's HBCUs.  

That is what it will take to make other colleges and universities re-think ignoring Black students and coddling racism and racist professors in their schools.  It will also channel enough funding to HBCUs to make them ALL state-of-the-art schools that attract excellent professors, instructors and staff.  

If Black preachers can bilk Black people out of billions dollars a year, right here in America, in Africa and the Caribbean, Black people have enough money to support, build and grow the largest and finest colleges and universities in America, on top of all the student financial aid and student loan money that far too many Black students keep giving to racist White colleges and universities.  

America's HBCUs should be turning out a army of doctors, lawyers, agriculturalists, scientists, psychologists/psychiatrists, accountants, financial experts, architects, and business men and women.  

This is something African America can do, and I hope this trend of increased enrollment in our HBCUs continues, and continues long enough and steady enough to grow America's HBCUs into the great, magnificent colleges and universities they are capable of being.



Despite Obama's hatred toward HBCU's they see enrollment surge!

Historically black schools say Obama’s policies have fallen short

March 6, 2015

The country’s first African American president is finding himself increasingly at odds with a cornerstone of the African American community: historically black colleges and universities.

Leaders at these schools and some black lawmakers say the Obama administration has been pushing policies for years that hurt students at a time when historically black colleges are already cash-strapped and seeing a drop in enrollment.

Tensions spilled over after a recent Congressional Black Caucus meeting with Obama and Vice President Biden in which the president said that historically black schools, also known as HBCUs, needed to do a better job graduating students and not saddling them with debt, according to several people at the meeting. Some Black Caucus members bristled at those remarks since they say the president didn’t acknowledge that his own administration was also pursuing policies that advocates say are hurting the schools.

“The president thinks that HBCUs — and there may in fact be some — are failing our students,” said Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), who was in attendance. “But there needs to be an open dialogue about higher education and why HBCUs have historically gotten short shrift when it comes to resources and recognition.”

On Friday, President Obama visited Benedict College, a historically black, liberal arts college in Columbia, S.C., as part of a push for his initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper” aimed at helping young black men.


But he did not mention historically black schools that have been hailed for their work educating young African Americans. Many of the schools are strapped for cash after years of financial mismanagement, poor alumni giving and fluctuating levels of government support. They are seeing a drop in enrollment, and many are struggling to graduate students on time.

Critics of the administration say that rather than help these schools at a time of acute need, the president keeps ignoring them or enacting policies that hurt them.

At last month’s meeting of the White House’s advisory board on historically black colleges and universities, the board’s chairman delivered some blunt criticism to the administration.

“We are not consulted when it comes to policy changes and decisions impacting — in a major way — the institutions on whose behalf we are to advocate,” Hampton University President William Harvey, who chairs the advisory board, said at a board meeting in February. “Overall support to black colleges is down.”

HBCU advocates also point to a restrictive federal loan policy that they say has shut out many families interested in sending their children to historically black colleges. The administration is also getting ready to unveil a new college ratings system that HBCU leaders say could unfairly keep their schools from getting more aid. And when the president recently unveiled a new initiative to pay for community college tuition, he did it without consulting HBCU leaders, who say their schools should also be eligible for help since they also serve low-income students.

The White House declined to comment on the meeting with Black Caucus members. But not everyone at the meeting took offense to Obama’s comments on the performance of historically black schools. “It wasn’t a dig at HBCUs,” said Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL). “We need to direct as much assistance to these schools because what they’re doing is invaluable.”

The Education Department points out that revenue to HBCUs from the federal government decreased during the recession, prior to Obama taking office, and increased across the board during the first two years of his administration. Federal funding of the schools from the Department of Education has increased 40 percent since 2007, including grants for more African American students.


“The administration is strongly supportive of historically black colleges and universities,” said Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell. “We have been strong supporters in word and deed.” [BULLSHIT!]


The nation’s 105 historically black schools, including Howard University and Morehouse College, account for just 3 percent of student enrollment at two- and four-year colleges. Yet they enroll 9 percent of black undergraduates and award nearly 20 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Obama started off his presidency on a high note with historically black schools. His stimulus package earmarked millions of dollars for infrastructure projects, academic research and overall operations at black colleges. But budget fights, across-the-board cuts in federal spending and changes in education policy reversed many of those gains.

Supporters of the schools say they have been hit particularly hard by a 2011 decision from the Education Department to tighten lending standards to parents for federal loans covering their children’s tuition. Federal parent loans have a 7.9 percent interest rate, compared with 3.4 percent to 6.9 percent for student loans.

The United Negro College Fund estimates that about 28,000 students at black colleges dropped out during the 2012-13 academic year because their families could not get loans.

After two years of discussions with black lawmakers and educators, the department relaxed the lending criteria. Starting in July, it will only check the past two years of parent credit histories, down from the five originally proposed.

But HBCU administrators say the damage was already done, costing black schools more than $150 million in revenue.

Another source of contention between the administration and HBCUs is a new college ratings system being fleshed out by the Education Department that would grade schools on their access, affordability, completion rates and graduate employment, among other things. By 2018, schools with high ratings could be eligible for larger Pell Grants and lower rates on student loans.

Many higher-education experts worry that the system will favor selective schools with deep pockets that serve students with means. That could deal a blow to historically black schools that enroll students who are not academically or financially prepared, said David Wilson, president of Morgan State University.

“I just don’t see how you can have a system that is going to be fair . . . especially when you have one set of schools doing the heavy lifting and another set fishing in a different pond,” he said.

About 72 percent of students at historically black schools are eligible for Pell Grants, a form of federal aid that goes to the neediest applicants, and nearly as many take out federal loans. Many are the first in their family to go to college and often have to work and take courses.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the president’s advisory board on HBCUs that the ratings “will take account of the degree of difficulty that many institutions, including ­HBCUs, face in educating significant numbers of underprepared, disadvantaged students.”

“I understand why HBCUs would be apprehensive,” said Ivory Toldson, deputy director of the White House initiative on HBCUs. “But what the administration is saying is we need a system that rewards the success of institutions that take greater risk with students, that do a better job with lower-income students.”

Advocates of historically black schools were disappointed again when Obama presented an ambitious new plan to cover tuition at the country’s community colleges — and many say they were not consulted before the policy was presented.

Facing flagging enrollment and strained finances, some black college leaders view Obama’s proposal for two years of free community college as a threat.

“If you’ve got $60 billion to spend over the next 10 years, send it to Pell [Grants],” said Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive of the UNCF, referring to the projected cost of Obama’s community college initiative.

He said he is also disappointed that the president would steer minority students to community colleges that often have lower graduation rates than historically black schools.

Still, as student debt has surpassed the $1 trillion mark, Morgan State’s Wilson said Obama is right to demand better results from higher education.

“He really wants to see a more streamlined system, one that is more accountable,” Wilson said. “Perhaps if some conversations had taken place with institutions serving a large swath of first-generation, low-income students, some of the unintended consequences could have been avoided.”

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