The experience for African Americans at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) is unlike any other. It is like an extended history lesson it’s like your parents sending you off to an elder family member for 4 years so that you may be around your own people and see the best and worst of them and the experience of African Americans. Most HBCUs are located in the south in small towns, this can be a good and bad thing for potential students coming from the larger urban areas. Some see black colleges as being less than larger predominantly white colleges most are seeing less relevance in the black college experience.
HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities, have long been a major source of pride for aspiring African-Americans. Mostly founded by philanthropists, HBCUs emerged to feed the industrial need to turn freed slaves into teachers and skilled workers in the post-Civil-War nation. Around the turn of the 20th century, Hampton University in Hampton, Va., and Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., turned men like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, respectively, into giants. Today, while Hampton and Atlanta’s Spelman College are reportedly thriving, Fisk, though classified by U.S. News & World Report as a top HBCU, currently has an enrollment of just over 770 undergraduates.
Today, there are 106 HBCUs in America. Since the 1970s, more than a half dozen have closed. That includes Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, Daniel Payne College in Birmingham, Ala., Atlanta’s Morris Brown College—the only HBCU founded by African-Americans—and Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va., all which have shuttered due to financial mismanagement and/or loss of accreditation. With so much bad news, it’s easy to assume the worst is yet to come, but those in leadership positions at these venerated halls of knowledge remain optimistic. One of the values of HBCU’s is the fact that there still is a level of commitment to un-served and underserved minority students. In the very near and long-term future, be it the next 10-20 years, there still is going to be that need, and I am so hopeful that HBCU’s will not move away or begin wanting to be a carbon copy of the historically white institutions.”
Some, believe that HBCU’s lack the diversity of white universities. Some African Americans are concerned with being typecast. They know that they most likely won’t work in an all-black environment, so there’s a pro and con in attending an HBCU when looking for a job in the real world because of where you attended school, so some decide to go to a “regular” university.
There are also limited resources which can be one of the most frustrating HBCU realities. But the one lesson learned from that is how to be crafty and make a success. Most HBCU graduates feel like they learned more about themselves and their people. HBCU’s may not have the resources of the Ivy League, but they have a knack for “making a way out of no way.” HBCU’s produce more African-American graduates who go on to receive advanced degrees than any other institutions. It is very important to see other people like us trying to achieve the greatness of higher learning.”
Defenders of HBCUs note that while historically black colleges account for just 4 percent of all four-year institutions, they produce 21 percent of all African-American undergraduate degrees. The institutions are even more critical in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, a major focus of growth for the Obama administration. Historically black institutions produce 18 percent of all black engineers, 31 percent of black biological scientists and mathematicians and 42 percent of black agricultural scientists. HBCUs graduate nearly a quarter of all blacks with degrees in business and management, and they account for 17 percent of all African-Americans in health professions.
While most agree that HBCUs still serve a vital role in higher education, they think the institutions must adapt and update. To have any future, sometimes you have to make changes that are uncomfortable. If you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to crack a few eggs. HBCUs need a new business model for a new type of student. Historically black institutions need to form new partnerships with other institutions, improve their on-campus technology and diversify their sources of revenue
The bottom line was, is and will be that HBCUs are necessary and relevant? HBCUs are part of the fabric of this nation. If HBCUs didn’t exist, they would have to create them. That’s how relevant they are. They stand as beacons in mainstream higher education’s attempt to diversify academically.