Friday, June 09, 2006

Historically Black Colleges. Universities.

So this is graduation weekend in my part of the country. That image on the left is from the Morehouse website.

And as always I reflect a bit on my undergrad and grad years. Thank God I had the chance to go and finish two universities. Thank God that there are many more students getting that chance as well.

One regret, if you can call it that, is that I would have loved going to one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. for undergrad. Or any private school for undergrad. And then the large public for grad school. Not the way I did it -- large public first, then small Catholic private for grad. Yeah. Silly. I can't change the clock now. But I often wonder, what if?

I personally think small privates or HBCUs are a wise investment of time and money. Even some of the large weekly newsmagazines have called campuses such as Spelman or Morehouse or other HBCUs a wise investment for students and parents.

Culturally, you get in touch with yourself, your history. Academically, you're in smaller classes which is always a good thing. Care-ethic wise, smaller campuses give you more attention and that ethic of care and being cared for. Connection-wise, I hear and see so many positive stories of people who've met the folks they continue to network and do business with... all due to their HBCU experience.

Last week I listened to Johnetta Cole and others talk about the strengths and challenges facing our HBCU institutions.

The scholars were very proud of the fact that HBCUs overwhelmingly graduate the students who become black doctors, lawyers, dentists, and government officials. They graduate black leaders, not just people who are leading blacks (a nice phrase I picked up from a Jesse Jackson talk a while back.) As well, proud that these institutions continue to survive in the midst of budget cuts, lower enrollments, and competition for the best and brightest with other institutions.

On the other hand, they're not bringing in the money like their larger, historically whiter campus counterparts. One statistic shared was that Harvard has an endowment (investments and cash reserves for scholarships, buildings, etc...) of around $30 billion, while the combined endowments of ALL the HBCUs is around $1.8 billion.

The enrollment numbers vary from campus to campus, but we're not sending our kids to HBCUs like we used to. And, faced with lower black student enrollments, many HBCUs are actively recruiting Latina/o and Asian American students to help fill the gap. That new recruitment strategy put some black academics and student affairs types in some serious cognitive dissonance. Other communties are starting to see the dollar and educational value of HBCUs.

Anyway, what's your take on HBCUs? You attend one? Or thinking of it? What's your take on the new recruitment strategies some HBCUs are utilizing? All that... Have a good weekend!


dancehard said...

Great post topic. I remember having to make the choice between attending a large public university (UC Davis), or an HBCU (Xavier). Even after being offered a 3/4 scholarship at Xavier, I chose Davis. While I do not regret my decision, I often wonder how my life, both socially and academically, would have been different had I attended an HBCU.

I believe attending an HBCU would have given me a sense of personal empowerment and collectiveness that I did not receive at my undergrad. From my encounters with HBCU alumni, most if not all of them have a family-type connection with their schools, which I think is very important to the future success of these institutions...many give back financially as alumni, while I have no motivation to contribute to my alumni. You definitely hit the nail on the head about folks building a network from their HBCU experiences...i've seen that happen more than once at a conference or cultural event.

As far as the new recruitment strategies many HBCU have employed, I find no problem with it. These institutions are dedicated to providing quality higher education to students, particularly Black students...if less and less Black students decide on HBCU's, the universities are forced to extend their reach to others that are interested. It would be ludicrous to expect HBCU's to lower it's admissions goals or standards just because fewer black students are applying. I doubt that a few more Asian and Latino/a students in the mix will grossly change the missions and objectives of HBCU's.

Marz said...

I actually don't want to attend an HBCU AT ALL. I've been around African Americans in every school and my neighborhood all my life. Also Philly is very segregated without Jim Crow. ( LAtinos living here, and Asians living there, Haitians on one block, and Italians on another.) I want to experience new cultures, new people and I don't feel as though I can do that if everyone is, somwhat, the same. No one is going to show me their tradtions from India, or how one may celebrate a holiday I've never heard of, and I want to experience that type of thing.

Also the standards of many HBCU's are downtrodden, and the people are just plain ghetto.

But I'm still applying to Howard, maybe, as a backup.