Recently several articles have been written on the importance and obstacles HBCUs encounter. For instance, my colleagues and I wrote an article titled, “Changing the Narrative About HBCUs Value Proposition” in which we challenged deficit narratives. In the article, we highlighted the findings from a Gallup study that concluded that HBCU graduates continue to excel after college. According to the study, “HBCU graduates are more likely to be thriving in purpose and financial well-being than black graduates who did not receive their degrees from HBCUs.” The findings are significant and support prior research that found that students benefit from an environment that focuses on communalism and cultural pride. Students thrive because HBCUs offer each student deep connections that cannot be replicated at other post-secondary institutions.
The HBCU Family
Strong relationships with administrators, classmates and faculty are essential to student success at HBCUs. Unlike other institutions students are not judged based on their race, ethnicity or prior mistakes. HBCUs extend a helping hand to students with limited support but a commitment to overcoming the odds. Their consistent faith in individuals from difficult backgrounds makes HBCUs special. In addition, students can feel the energy as they walk the hallowed halls of buildings built post-Civil War. This creates an uncommon bond between the school and alumni that is difficult to describe. Simply, the HBCU experience feels like joining a family that will always be there regardless of the barriers you face in life.
Frequently students that didn’t attend an HBCU are amazed at the fervent love for events including homecoming. Alumni plan months in advance to appear at fundraisers, step shows, gospel shows and awards ceremonies. On social media the build up to homecoming is like a wave moving swiftly towards the shore. You realize it’s coming and the anticipation is unmatched. During homecoming and other events including convocation the historical significance of HBCUs and their importance in higher education are reaffirmed. Where else can see noted Black scholars, entertainers, students and alumni come together for the purpose of a single event or weekend? Although homecoming plays a critical role in the lives of students and alumni HBCUs offer so much more.
A Commitment to Academic Rigor
Students have the opportunity to take challenging courses, engage in important political discussions and critique societal norms. HBCUs produced Ella Baker, Andrew Young and Thurgood Marshall among other successful members of the Black community. Moreover, future alumni benefit from strong corporate, scientific and government relationships that support internship and research opportunities. This leads to opportunities to travel the globe examining other cultures. HBCUs value to members of the Black community is unmatched. Although HBCUs offer a variety of benefits that cannot be measured they continue to struggle to fund key programs because of inadequate funding.
Despite the fact that HBCUs encounter significant funding disparities in comparison to predominantly White institutions (PWIs) they work with students to identify external funding including scholarships. Sometimes they cannot provide students with enough financial aid to continue their education. This contributes to lower retention rates, which allows anti-HBCU proponents to question their relevancy. Unfortunately, HBCUs are at a crossroad. In states including North Carolina legislators are seeking to pass laws that could force several institutions to close. For this reason, alumni, advocates, administrators, faculty and students have to work together to counter attempts to erase HBCUs mission to educate Black students. The fight is ongoing, we have to close the HBCU, PWI funding gap. This will only occur when the HBCU community holds policymakers accountable while financially contributing to university programs through fundraisers and other sponsored events.