Do HBCUs Still Have Purpose?

According to Black Enterprise, historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, are “inferior, they’re in need of a new mission…” People feel they are not needed in this day in age because their purpose has been served. Many HBCUs have lost funding because they don’t seem to fit into the scheme of things. The Root reported that HBCUs could lose up to $85 million in funding a year in federal support.

Bethune-Cookman University located in Daytona Beach, Florida is one of the HBCUs that is loosing funding. AAReports reported that Governor Rick Scott was going to cut all funding to two HBCUs in the state of Florida, Bethune-Cookman University and Florida Memorial University. B-CU stands to lose about $2 million in state funding. AAReports states, “The state has, for years, helped fund Florida’s private, historically black colleges. But Scott has completely wiped out funding for Bethune-Cookman and Florida Memorial University…” Courtney Hart, alum of Bethune-Cookman University, says, “I do not think that it is fair for Rick Scott to do something like that. I think it’s just a way to keep our people down.”

Rasheedah Akbar-Braclet, also alum from Bethune-Cookman, doesn’t thinks that Governor Scott’s proposal to cut funding is fair. “Bethune-Cookman is already a small school that doesn’t really receive much funding from alumni or other means. It’s sad to see that the governor can’t help out our school and our students.”

HBCUs are institutions of higher learning that were founded for African Americans because they weren’t accepted at the white colleges and universities.  According to Black Enterprise, “HBCUs represent about 3% of colleges in the U.S. but enroll 12% of all Black college students and produce 23% of all Black college graduates.” Black Enterprise also reports, that although HBCUs produce alumni that contribute to the Black middle class and the nation’s economy and have impressive graduate numbers in the areas of education, mathematics, science, technology, and engineering, there are some people who believe HBCUs have served their purpose and are no longer relevant.

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Huffington Post reported that op-ed, journalist Jason L. Riley wrote, “Today, however, dwindling enrollments and endowments indicate that fewer and fewer blacks believe that these schools, as currently constituted, represent the best available academic choice.” As stated earlier, HBCUs are looked at as being inferior to white schools, not being as competitive as white schools. Hart states, “ Even though I had an overall good experience at BCU, it did not properly prepare me for graduate school. I attend a predominantly white school and the pace is very fast. They leave everything up to you…”

In an interview with NPR, Moorehouse College’s president, John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. speaks about how HBCU alumni are wealthy, but refuse or hesitate to give back to their alma mater. Maybe that’s where the solution for funding cuts lies. Akbar-Braclet stated, “I think it’s very important for alumni to give back to their alma mater. I’ve seen firsthand how not having enough funds can hinder the school from growing and being able to provide the students with the best of the best.”

Hart agrees saying, “While I was at Cookman, there were certain things that the school needed to develop the students, but we just didn’t have the funds for it. Making cuts not only hurts the growth of the school, but also the growth of the students. Without that funding, some may not be able to afford school, or a department may not be able to upgrade their tools to improve the students’ learning experience. It’s imperative that alumni give back so that these things can be accomplished regardless of funding cuts.”

HBCUs have been around since before the Civil War. Their mission was to give African Americans a chance to have a higher education to become professional citizens. Wilson says, “…There is no question that we need HBCUs. We just need them to do what they do better.”


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